AT&T working their assets off in advance of Verizon iPhone?

The Wall Street Journal, which kicked up the old iPhone on Verizon rumors (and iPhone HD!) again this week, now says AT&T doing everything they can to fix their network and optimize their service before any customers even think of jumping to Big Red.

First, they've very publicly acknowledged problems in cities like New York and San Francisco and invested in infrastructure to get them up to speed (and to stop the drop). In total, $2 billion will be spent building out the network.

However, dealing with the sheer volume of iPhone users on AT&T is an unparalleled problem, they maintain (and one many suspect would have plagued any single carrier).

For example, AT&T said when iPhone customers started checking their email and surfing the Web from their high-rise offices, AT&T repositioned its cellular antennas to point up, instead of down. Rivals will start the process of making the same changes only after the phones hit their networks, it said.

AT&T also spent a lot of time with Apple trying to fine-tune how the iPhone dealt with their network, and give the Cupertino engineers a crash course on wireless. They returned regularly and, according to the WSJ, helped with new technologies to "lighten the load".

Apple rejiggered how its phones communicate with AT&T's towers. As a result, the phones now put less of a load on the network for such simple tasks as finding the closest tower or checking for available text messages.

It's an interesting, if decidedly pro-AT&T article but well worth the read. If you're on AT&T, are you seeing actual, real world improvements? Would you jump on (or jump to) a Verizon iPhone if one is ever released?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

AT&T working their assets off in advance of Verizon iPhone?


Since I live in NYC I’ll use whichever provided has the best Monthly PLAN!!!
I hope that Verizon get the IPHONE this way AT&T will be force to lower their Monthly plans.
Only TIME will tell.

Competition is good, but I like that I can surf and talk at the same time, something Verizon can't do on their current network. So, everyone else feel free to jump ship and lighten the bandwidth!

I have been seen improvements in lower Manhattan, on the Staten Island ferry and all over Staten Island. The improvements started in January. I have to say though that while it wasn't the fastest, coverage was generally pretty good everywhere I've been, but since January the speeds have really improved.
I did find one thing strange, while at work in Lower Manhattan, my co-workers who had just purchased Nexus Ones and using them on AT&T were seeing better upload speeds on 3G, by about a factor of 3x. While download speeds were about the same.

Big red can go to H E double hockey sticks. AT&T is more reliable where I live than verizon. My gf on verizon has more dropped calls in a month then I ever had with AT&T and her Internet is sloooowwwww. My 3g is quick and I have it all the time even in the country and suburbs I have 3g no edge. I do t understand these people that say they don't have no signal do you live in a cave? Anyway i'm staying where I have been for the past 7 years the big orange.

I have the iPhone in the Bay Area and AT&T's coverage is spotty at best. I am awaiting for my contract to be up to head to Verizon or Sprint.
I cannot overstate how AT&T Customer service continues to push me off and not resolve this issue of dropped calls.
AT&T reps if you reed this feel free to contact me:

Ever since AT&T's software-based implementation of 3.5G last January, my iPhone has STOPPED dropping calls and consistently gets 3Mb down. I had been hoping for a CDMA iPhone up until that I'm very happy on AT&T and wouldn't switch to America's largest and slowest 3G network for any reason at all!

You are right. I would rather talk and surf at the same time. I do that a lot when I am trying to find things out while getting the information from someone on the phone. Verizon can have it, its not like my iPhone is going to stop working because they might get it now. Good luck getting back the customers(like me) who left because you guys were to stubborn and arrogant to begin with.

My coverage has been getting better with each passing month. I have no complaints about att right now. I just hope that under the 4th gen they don't buckle again.

I just won't believe these rumors until I see the vzw phone. No way jobs let vzw get it after the idont ads

I live in Atlanta and while I've had some dropped calls (less lately though), the data connection is pretty fast on my iPhone 3G (I regularly get 2.3 Mbs down).
AT&T and my iPhone has service throughout my house whereas my old Treo 700p with Sprint only got service next to 1 window in my kitchen.
I'm excited about the upcoming iPhoneHD (or whatever name is given to next hardware release). I plan on staying with AT&T and getting the new iPhone (when it is released).
I am starting to believe all the articles and thinking that Verizon will struggle and face a steep learning curve and network issues once the iPhone is available on their network.
All my family now have iPhones and we're all AT&T to AT&T free minutes.
It would be very cool if they also put an LTE chip in the phone for future upgradability to the new 4G networks when they are rolled out. I doubt Apple will do this though.
Overall I love my iPhone 3G, can't wait for the next iPhone and am happy with AT&T service!

I've been pleased with AT&T coverage and speeds in upstate NY, DC metro area, central Florida, and southern California. The only place I've been with issues is SF and the coverage there is horrible. I love my iPhone, but if I lived in SF I would just get a Verizon phone and an iPod Touch. I don't understand why they can't fix SF coverage when Verizon seems to do it fine from all accounts.

One good thing I will share about my experience with AT&T is that they offer a free app that will allow you to submit any trouble areas you encounter. I do this regularly, hopefully showing them the areas in my home town that need service upgrades. I think its very proactive for a company to offer a feature like this. Now, will it instantly bean a service technician down from the mothership to the trouble area? No, but maybe in the next update it will.

I don't know when these improvements will be made, but my service in NYC is abysmal! I drop calls once a day on a GOOD day, and sometimes 3 or 4 times on the same conversation when I'm driving.
AT&T is the WORST. I like the ability to be able to talk and surf at the same time, but talking is almost impossible with that terrible network.
I'm gonna be on the first thing smoking away from AT&T to Verizon!

I was driving through Columbus OH earlier this month at about 8:00 pm. I was trying to have a conversation with my wife back in TN as I was driving. I dropped the call 4 times over the course of a 20 minute conversation! All the while showing full signal 3G! AT&T is definitely trying my patience! I would certainly consider jumping back to big red, but I really do still doubt we will ever see a CDMA iPhone. I think we will see iPhone on Verizon when they have rolled out LTE with voice support (no LTE for data/CDMA for voice).

The one major reason that as of right now I would not even consider jumping to Verizon is on their network I can't talk and check email at the same time. I talk with a bluetooth headset and I'm always either checking email or on the web the same time on the phone. Additionally I think Verizon will have a lot of the same issues AT&T had in the beginning just with the sure number of new customers the iPhone brings and additional load to their network.

i have noticed a big improvement in so-cal just about everywhere that used to have bad service now has full bars

I used to live in Las Vegas and AT&T's service was great. I'm living in Atlanta now and it's great here too.

I have never had a problem with dropping calls or 3g speed with my iPhone however recently I have had bad coverage always going to searching but never finds anything though I don't think it has anything to do with AT&T because it only started doing this after I upgraded my 3GS to 3.1.3 and jailbroke it again using pwnagetool

Just moved back from LA to NY about a month ago. Had great at&t service in LA. Drove across country and even had five bars of 3G in the middle of nowhere in Central TX.
I live uptown in Manhattan. Never had any dropped calls and get about 2-3Mbps down. Wouldn't jump to Verizon if they got an iPhone because I need the ability to roam in Europe on GSM and I need to check email at the same time that I'm on the phone- not always in a wifi area.
I welcome Verizon getting the iPhone. I don't think the grass will be any greener on the other side.

@Adam- either jailbreak it again, or restore it to normal, it's probably not AT&T's fault at this point. I thought 3.1.3 was not jailbreakable in the first place?
I refuse to believe anything thad has to do with Verizon and iPhone until I see it with my own set of eyes!! I just DO NOT see it happening for at least this year.

The "CDMA" iPhone is the China Telecom version folks! And all this so-called "news" is Apple artificially inflating their stock.
This video shows how they do it. Scroll to 3 minutes in. Apple is specifically mentioned - how they use the media to legally inflate their stock.

At&t is horrible in Cincinnati. Verizon is the king of reception here in Cincy. I drop about 2-3 calls a day and the phone barley works at home with Wi-Fi. The internet is GREAT, the speed is fast but it’s a phone and making a phone call is important and it doesn’t do it well. I have full bars on 3G all the time, but the calls still drop. I might as well have an ipod touch. I may think about switching to Big Red if At&t doesnt improve it's call quality.

I've seen improvements, too. From even better when HSPA 7.2 was deployed here in Los Angeles. I used to have between 1.8 and 2.5Mbps, and now it's rarely ever below 2Mbps anymore, and more often than not, I pull down 3-4Mbps. I've seen people report speeds in excess of 4Mbps, but I have yet to hit that.
I've never had a reason to complain about AT&T. I had a Storm2 briefly, and the speeds were nowhere near those with AT&T. Looking forward to the iPhone HD and the iPad w/ 3G from AT&T. :D

Happy with ATT here too in MA, no reason to switch and mostly like others have said, why would I give up surfing while talking? That's HUGE.

The so-called CDMA iPhone is the China Unicom version folks. All this crap talk of a Verizon iPhone started last year too when Apple posted a job for a CDMA engineer. Yeah, they hired one but it was for developing the China Unicom version - which is a completely different flavor of CDMA compared to the dying CDMA technology in the US.

Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing for Verizon to syphon off some AT&T iPhone customers. It would take some load off the network and make the remaining AT&T customers happy. Those people who want Verizon are going to jump no matter what, so let them and those who are unhappy with AT&T go.

Absolutely not! I am very happy with how AT&T has handled itself in helping the iPhone users. And I'm sure it will only get better. The way I see it, Verizon will have their hands full in trying to do what AT&T has already done to support and cater to the iPhone customer's needs.

I am opposed to the exclusivity arrangement on principle, and I think that the sooner the iPhone is opened up to other carriers, the better. That being said, I have fine AT&T service here in the Midwest, and I don't see any reason right now to spend hundreds of dollars switching carriers.

The "CDMA" iPhone is for China Unicom guys! All these rumors started flying last year right before Apple released the China Unicom version - which is a completely different flavor of CDMA than the CDMA currently dying in the US. Verizon is ditching CDMA in the next year to go with global standard LTE. Apple NEVER hitches their star to a dying wagon - aka dying technology.

i wouldn't expect this to help prices .. here in the UK we have 3 carriers and all offer identical priceplans, even to the point where even being with my carrier for 3 years wasn't enough to get me a discount where the iphone is concerned.

@Trent in comment 23. Very interesting video!! It certainly seems Apple is feeding bogus content to build the value of their stock…since they never confirm or deny rumors this tactic would reinforce the “rumor effect”. Good comment!! I think the press is being punked on this big time!

Overall my experience with AT&T has been good. I can't say that I get any dropped calls. Although with the first generation iphone I did have problems dropping calls around the Albany area. But with my 3GS it's been excellent. As far as the service improvements I'm beginning to see it where I live. Oneonta just recently upgraded to 3G service and a small town where my Mother lives I pick up 5 bars now instead of no service.
But after speaking with an AT&T rep over the phone it takes about 8-12 months to switch over a tower to 3G, I don't know why more areas don't have it. They've had this problem for while now...

My problems with ATT generally have to do with being in a crowd, say at a football game, when I would like to be sending pictures of the game to others, or on a message board discussing the game (in process) or texting friends in the stands across the field, etc. Its those moments when I most want to use the phone for all the things it does, that its simply worthless.

Am I the only one to find something wrong with AT&T's behavior. If I was to go to my boss and say, Mr Boss, you have been paying me 40 hours a week but in reality I have only worked 20 hours a week since I started working for you. He would fire my a$$ on the spot. Why is it then Ok for AT&T to charge for a service they can never provide. It got so bad at my house that I had to add line and purchased a cheap phone ($20) so my wife and I could make phone and receive calls from our house. She has the 3g and I have the 3gs. The other option is to stand outside on the deck or in the driveway.

I have noticed a huge improvement. When a buddy got the iPhone 3G right on release, he almost never had 3G service. By the time I got my 3GS a couple months after its release, there was strong 3G service nearly everywhere in my area (western Massachusetts)- the major exception being my house, but I at least have decent enough service there to make calls, and I don't really need 3G at home when I have cable+WiFi. This past semester I had a 40-minute bus ride to my college, and service usually only dropped back to EDGE for about a mile of it. At work and at school I have excellent 3G coverage, even inside the building; it's actually faster than the WiFi at either- I typically get 1-2Mbps. Since I only upgraded my home internet from 768k DSL 2 years ago, 1-2Mb on my phone is perfectly satisfying. So yes, in my case, AT&T has definitely stepped up, but I probably live in the perfect median for their service; I don't live in a big city so the service isn't overloaded, but on the other hand it's not exactly a rural area and there's lots of colleges, so they have reason to bring wide coverage out here.

Why, with all the iPhone commercials advertising how you can check email and surf while on the phone, would apple put the the iPhone on a network that doesn't that?

AT&T has been great here in the Dallas/Ft Worth, TX market. Regularly seeing speeds of 2.5mbps down and no dropped calls.

things have definately improved on the st. louis network. summer '09 was a nightmare. I'll be sticking with AT&T. Not being able to talk and surf on an iPhone seems to rather defeat the purpose of having an iPhone. however I'm all for other people jumping ship. lighten the load.

firstly , let me just say that ATT's network speed has increased in certain areas of New York Metro Area. I went from 400-800kbps to 1200-2200kbps. However, I was driving last night and my calls would not go through. I mean, back - to - back " call failed ".
Dropped calls are a problem for the iPhone ! Its not the network, I've had ATT for about 6 years now and the only time the calls ever dropped was because I was in a room that had thick walls. This was back when I had cingular and they didn't have the same spectrum they do now. ( its 800mhz right ? )
Its more so the Phone and less for the network.

I love the emotion and anger that I see but in the end only vzw and att are getting rich while we drop money ane calls, but I digress. Competition is good and if everytime vzw blinks it makes att improve its services than I am all for it. Although I am pro att I hope that Big Red does get the iphone, this will also put pressurenon htc, microsoft, android, nokia etc to step up their game. In the end with lower rates, better phones,faster internet, you the consumer will come out on top.

another problem is network voice and data strength. Just because I'm getting 5 bars on the iPhone doesn't mean my data is just as strong. ATT should do what verizon is doing with the two separate network bars.
I could get five bars and get 400kbps ... ( ?_? )

Terry: Verizon is not ditching CDMA at all, as it is the fallback technology for Verizon when there is no LTE coverage and AT&T will also revert back to GSM when there is no LTE coverage. LTE is an OFDMA based tech and not based on GSM, hence backwards compatibility between legacy CDMA/GSM networks.

This is never going to happen. /broken record...
It's wasting time and space that could be used for real news. Verizon will NEVER have the iPhone. Sprint? Maybe. T-Mobile, you can almost bet on it. Verizon? Never going to happen. They called the iPhone out and called it useless over Christmas. Apple doesn't forget.

I am waiting to make the jump. Verizon has a better network PLUS are running with 4g already. The AT&T commercials are still touting their 3g network. Seriously?

I live in Pueblo, Colorado and AT&T's 3G coverage is non-existent here. Although I'd love to have the ability to talk and browse apps at the same time I don't have any use for it if I don't have 3G coverage. At least with Verizon I'd have coverage. So far I've only heard news of AT&T planning to increase their data speeds. I've heard no news of them planning to expand their 3G coverage. If they don't get coverage in my area by the time a Verizon iPhone is released then I'll be sending money to Verizon every month instead of AT&T.

Why in the world do so many AT&T customers seem to think you can't surf the web & talk at the same time on Verizon... News flash - you can and its 10x faster!

You Asked:
"Why in the world do so many AT&T customers seem to think you can’t surf the web & talk at the same time on Verizon"
Because the technology Verizon uses for their network is INCAPABLE of voice and data at the same time. Verizon uses 1X CDMA and EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized). The network CANNOT do voice and data at the same time. Verizon could have upgraded to EV-DV (Evolution-Data and Voice), but chose not to.
Also, while AT&T loves to tout voice and data at the same time, I rarely use it when in a 3G area, and can't use it when in their 2G areas because (as they don't like to tout), their 2G-GSM EDGE network can't do voice and data at the same time. And as we all know, 2G comprises the bulk of AT&T's footprint.

Verizon wasn't slamming the iPhone. Verizon was slamming the NETWORK the iPhone was on.

I HATE AT&T. I work at Nassco ship yard and Nassco has a contract with Verizon, so when me and my co-workers work together only the ones wit Verizon get service inside the ship.....I'm stuck with wack ass AT& soon as Verizon gets the iPhone 4th gen count me in on bailing on AT&T and switching to Big Reds network...

I just hope we can get a cheaper text plan out if this. So tired of this ripoff!!

I had Verizon when the first blackberry, want to be iPhone killer (storm) and Verizon charges you for everything. Gps and their visual voice mail 3 dollars, kiss my you know what it comes with the phone so it should be free. Also I don't think apple is goin to let Verizon put that ugly big ass check mark on the iPhone. I will keep AT&T. I'm happy with my bill and I get roll over minutes.

It should be CDMA-GSM variant, like RIM's Storm. Capable to run on CDMA network, yet able to switch via a SIM card to any GSM bands from AT&T to Optus, from T-Mobile to Smart, from Rogers to Vodafone. I am happy that I am able to use my iPhone on both sides of the Pacific by just replacing the SIM card.

Would never thing about leaving AT&T. For those people that dont have coverage in their area. Thats hardly AT&TS fault, its not a landline and it never will be. If you dont have coverage you souldnt be here because the iPhone is so cool, you should be on a carrier with a cell phone that works in your area.
LOL, you are so mis informed its ridiculous. out of this entire thread I take the most offense to your post. People are so mis informed about the 4G network, I dont even know where to start. First of all, Verizon "started" deploying 4G. LTE, which is testing in 2 cities still to this day. With no devices available for people to buy to put on that network. Not even a laptop data card. Not one! Second, by the time they get the network up and running and delivering their 5-12 Mbps of speed they talk about it will only work inside the cities they release it in, and then someone is going to need to develop a dual mode, CDMA/LTE phone. Like I said "A" meaning if they even build 1 thats all you will have. Third. There are no plans with carriers to even start building LTE phones until the middle of 2011. And there are no plans for any manufacturers on any drawing board to even think about designing a dual mode CDMA/LTE phone. So I ask you, where is this LTE network? AT&T still touts its 3G network because 3G speeds under HSPA+ are capable of 56 Mbps. Which is almost 5 times faster than Verizons 4G network they are proposing. 3G is getting dumped before it even gets its feet off the ground for no reason at all. AT&T has already upgraded every 2G cell tower in the US with 7.2 Mbps software. When Verizon someone gets off their ass and builds a phone that will work on their LTE network you will see speeds of 5-12 Mbps. And this could be years away. Ralph DeLavega CEO of AT&T mobility already said last month that cities they have pushed 7.2Mbps out too will go to 21 Mbps. Which is just under twice as fast as Verizons 4G network speed. Again I ask, who cares about 4G? Whats the benefit today? 3 years from now, maybe. I would much rather have 21Mbps of 3G today than 12Mbps of Verizons 4G that we wont even likely see until 2012.

Quick recap of the last month with AT&T - dropped calls no service at Disneyland, attended a convention at the MGM in Vegas no service and yesterday traveling from San Diego to solana beach ( 20 miles ) service was spotty. Bring on Verizon so the 3 phones I pay for each month can b utilized. Had verizon prior to AT&T and loved them. I can't wait.

Great service on the westside of Cincinnati.
Only problem I have had, is a certain spot at work, calls go directly to voicemail. Weird thing is, it is only a 30 sq ft area. Walk outside of that spot and everything is fine.

AT&T is horrible in Chicago - especially in the busy business areas of downtown (The Loop, Michigan Avenue, etc.). As publicity focused on San Francisco and New York, little was written about Chicago's heavily populated area. I often go without a signal or drift to Edge when downtown. The signal throughout Chicago is unpredictable. I travel often and my iPhone has great reception/coverage in smaller areas - most recently Kansas City, New Orleans and Honolulu.

I'm on AT&T and live in Los Angeles and I pretty much always have great service and 3g working fine... But since so many ppl have iPhones with AT&T and big red begin a European company I would rather stick with AT&T then switch...

Really? A cave? Ever heard of New York or San Francisco? I'm sure there are only a few people living in those cities...hell, why would At&T provide good service to those places since they are just caves...

I had to dump AT&T due to constant call drops, even WITH 5 bars of service. I wasn't going to keep paying those rates for empty promises.

To the AT&T fanboys that say Apple won't move the iphone to VZW because VZ hurt Apple's feelings: Are you kidding me? Steve Jobs wouldn't say "NO" to another few Billion $$ becuz a commercial ripped the iphone? Get real. He'll take that $ and buy some more turtlenecks and jeans.