updated 11:55 am EST, Tue December 22, 2009
Carrier struggling to keep up with data demands
AT&T will not be imposing tiered iPhone data plans in the near future, insists the president of AT&T Mobility, Ralph de la Vega. The executive recently spurred controversy by suggesting that AT&T would need to encourage people to use less data, something which might easily be done by forcing people to pay for capped plans. Constant Internet access is one of the main draws of the iPhone in countries like the US.
Although De la Vega has oft downplayed rumors of data tiers, he has more strongly denied them in a new interview with BusinessWeek. "There are things people say I said that I didn't say. We have not made any decision to implement tiered pricing," comments De la Vega, repeating the second sentence.
The president also reiterates suggestions that the company is looking at Wi-Fi as its salvation, for instance through its McDonald's hotspots, as well as those at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and other locations. The carrier is also placing a strong emphasis on femtocells, which shunt home users' cellular communications off to residential broadband. For subscribers with the devices, the advantage is more reliable voice service.
While such solutions are potentially expensive for AT&T, research firm ComScore notes that about 60 percent of US mobile web traffic is generated by iPhones, even though they form less than a quarter of the American smartphone market. AT&T has struggled to keep up with demand, resulting in numerous complaints from iPhone owners. De la Vega nevertheless argues that upgrades are beginning to pay off, pointing to San Francisco, where the network has "never performed better." During the week of December 7th, he adds, AT&T had the fewest dropped calls in its history.