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AT&T taking blame for Apple's iPhone problems?

updated 12:45 pm EST, Mon December 14, 2009

Network performance underrated, reports say

The iPhone hardware may be to blame for American users' connection problems, not AT&T, says the senior VP for telecommunications research at Nielsen, Roger Entner. The executive claims that the device has problems with the chipset connecting it to cellular towers, hurting both voice and data reliability. Because the iPhone has a "nimbus of infallibility," says Entner, the public blames AT&T and not Apple.

AT&T is moreover accused of being unwilling to defend itself, as that would offend Apple and risk souring a profitable contract. Verizon may have taken advantage of this in a well-known ad campaign, suggesting that the iPhone is hampered by its association with AT&T. Verizon could become the next US iPhone carrier as soon as 2010.

Results from several testing firms are alleged to show that AT&T often has the superior network. Global Wireless Solutions -- which has AT&T as a client but not Verizon - says that the former company has 40 to 50 percent more data throughput than any of its rivals. Root Wireless, an independent entity, notes that in several metropolitan areas including New York, Dallas and San Francisco, AT&T has faster average download speeds and more frequent availability of 75 percent or better signal strength.

Telecommunications consultant Chetan Sharma observes that AT&T is coping relatively well given the jump in data on its network, which has risen 4,000 percent since the launch of the iPhone 3G in 2008. People are using as much data as they can, and AT&T's own mistake may simply have been failing to anticipate demand and upgrade towers as quickly as possible. The carrier has threatened to restrict data use as a coping mechanism.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Outdo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Why No European Problems

    If that report is correct, why aren't there much more reports of problems in Europe? I don't believe it.

  1. gurman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Read the original article

    It makes it clear that AT&T is better at bandwidth, but it says nothing about dropped calls or data transfers --- precisely the criticisms most AT&T iPhone users have. I suspect this is a puff piece written by a business faculty member being paid by AT&T to dis Verizon (not that I believe Verizon would do any better if it were able to offer iPhones). When there are as many iPhone (and maybe Android) users on both companies' networks, then a fair comparison will be possible.

  1. bdmarsh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No dropped calls in Canada

    at least in Winnipeg, not sure about other cities, but friends in Toronto & Edmonton haven't complained about dropped calls there either.

    Rogers/Fido here in Winnipeg seems generally solid, had one tower in my home area that had issues for about a week, but it was fixed, and the iPhone worked properly everywhere else in the city.

    as far as data usage, I only average around 200 MB per month through the Cell towers, and I do more data usage than most iPhone users I know (most I used was 600 MB in one month when I really tried) I am connected through Wi-Fi at work and home though, so that means most of my data is going through Wi-Fi.

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's someone's fault!

    I don't care if it's Apple's fault or ATT's fault. I just want them to fix it.

    But I never had a problem with dropped calls with my RAZR in the 1.5 years I had that on ATT. I get an iPhone in Sept, and it seems to be nothing but issues. So, is Motorola making better phones than Apple? (Which wouldn't surprise me, since they're making phones that also do other things, while Apple's making something that also happens to be a phone).

  1. Arty50

    Joined: Dec 1969


    It's not Apple

    I had issues with Motorola, Nokia, and Sony Ericcson before I got my iPhone. They haven't been frequent enough for me to complain about; I just accept that it's part of having a cell phone. The lack of 3G coverage and the poor quality of the existing coverage at this point though is inexcusable.

  1. Paul Huang

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Bad DISSERVICE regardless of phone

    I get equally bad disservice on any phone on AT&T.

    How about this: For every dropped call, AT&T adds 10¢ credit to the account. How do you define a dropped call? A call to the same number that is made immediately after the call is dropped (the user is inconvenienced). Of course, if the call drops at the conclusion of the call, then the user would not make another one.

    Take on this challenge, AT&T.

  1. Susan

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Give me a bleeping break!

    It's not the iPhone, it's AT&T. The AT&T coverage in my town is awful on ALL brands of phones. The problem is with their coverage, not the iPhone.

  1. ibugv4

    Joined: Dec 1969


    AT&T Customer Survey

    I left for Verizon this past week, on Saturday I got a call from AT&T asking me if I'd take an exit survey:

    "No, No. I refuse to talk to you. I hated your company." (click)

    I hope that got the point across. I have much better service with Verizon, and I really love the Droid's camera with zoom and flash, not to mention the Cloud-based computing model it represents. Much more modern than the iPhone's 1-way data sync process that Apple basically cobbled over from the Newton, ie the iPhone is using a 90s schema.

  1. Ashari

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Easy enough to test

    This should be really easy to test… simply get a non-iPhone phone on AT&T and use it alongside the iPhone. Check the bar count, make calls and check their quality, etc. How hard can it be?

  1. sam_mp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    AT&T is the only one to blame.

    Guys, don't blame customers or the iphone. At the very list unlimited plan means unlimited unless otherwise explicitly stated in the contract, commercials etc. It is entirely AT&T 's fault. Some history here, the secret behind problems in AT&T network stems from it's desire to jump to LTE network (4G) without investing in 3G network from the ground up. The EDGE network is a 2.5G network that can be theoretically pushed to 3G like performance at moderate usage levels. AT&T does not have true 3G in most places, such as similar to that of British Telecom. That was exactly what the verizon ads. were showing on the map. The EDGE network was supposed to become the first 3G network. Supposedly Lucent Technologies screwed it up for them with excessive delays after the telecom bust. Others in the mean time came up with Ericsson equipment with higher specifications and took the 3G label. GSM handset makers generally took AT&T specifications and complied with the lower specs until the powerful Apple came and rocked the boat. Now they are forced to invest in true 3G but the combined system creates bottleneck points when congested. At some point one extra customer kicks out entire cell when the bottleneck bandwidth is reached. It is behaving in ad-hoc manner. Apple gave time to AT&T by first making a 2G iphone but AT&T did a mess of the network by blending the two systems and can not increase capacity with out disrupting communication now and then. But all is not lost, because it is working to accelerate 4G LTE buildout. So everything will be forgotten next year.

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