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Cellphones Wireless Networking Hardware

AT&T 3G Upgrades Degrade 2G Signal Strength 210

Posted by kdawson
from the cellphone-walks-into-a-bar dept.
Timothy R. Butler writes "Much to the chagrin of owners of various 2G cell phones on AT&T Mobility's network, including the highly visible (and originally highly expensive) first-generation iPhone, we have discovered that AT&T has been quietly adjusting its network in ways that degrade 2G network performance as it has sought to build out its next-generation 3G network. Many of the phones affected, including BlackBerry devices, are still well within their two-year contract period."
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AT&T 3G Upgrades Degrade 2G Signal Strength

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  • Edge service (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lon (37445) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @05:00PM (#26314039)

    Where I live, AT&T has both Edge (2.5G) and 3G deployed - I only have the first gen iPhone so I cannot speak to 3G quality here, but over the past couple of months I have seen an improvement in 2G coverage and quality. My house used to be on the edge (hah!) of an Edge dead zone - but now we get nearly full bars and no missed calls.

  • bitchfest (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2009 @05:08PM (#26314099)

    "OFB was able to confirm this situation for itself using multiple devices in St. Louis, MO, and also obtained information on similar cases across the country."
    translation:
    "I walked around St. Louis with my three iPhones and there's a bar less than normal. I emailed some friends and they think they're seeing fewer bars too."

    Seriously AT&T offered the guy to offset the contract cost on 3G iPhones. know how many 2G owners would jump at that offer? What a diva. Blame it on Apple for designing hardware that was obsolete before it was manufactured.

  • NYC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clinko (232501) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @05:10PM (#26314113) Homepage Journal

    In NYC my 1st Gen iPhone has become unusable. It's so obvious I'm glad someone else is noticing.

    - Pandora for the iPhone used to work, now it doesn't (Too slow).
    - Loading map searches on google maps takes a minute plus.

    The constants are my apt location and my desk location at work. I haven't changed a thing, but the network has definitely slowed down with the same "signal strength"/Bars.

  • FCC? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmomo (256005) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @05:14PM (#26314131) Homepage

    Does this only affect at&t 2G phones? Even if-so, should this not fall under the jurisdiction of the FCC? Is a company allowed to create devices/systems that use the spectrum in such a way that they interfere with other devices created by the same company?

    Clever contract wording or not, this just doesn't seem like it should be allowed.

  • by LoadWB (592248) on Saturday January 03, 2009 @05:24PM (#26314205) Journal

    If true, then this is exactly what Cingular did to the TDMA network (back when I had my GAIT phone, http://slashdot.org/~LoadWB/journal/123321 [slashdot.org] ) while transitioning to GSM/GPRS. Cingular quietly discontinued various network services to TDMA phones, then essentially told us "tough shit, get a GSM phone."

    I have noticed that my EDGE speeds have not been quite up to their norm lately. I was hoping this was just an anomaly, but I guess you never really can tell.

    I wonder how friendly T-Mobile is to unlocked phones. I really have a hard time abandoning my Sony Ericssons...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:05PM (#26314483)

    I posted this on the OFB.biz article as a comment... LoadWB, you're 100% right, AT&T did *exactly* this before, and I expect them to do it again -- screw up 3G service to "encourage" people to go to LTE.
    -------------
      Par for the course. I predicted over 5 years ago that this is exactly what would happen once they decided to go to a post-GSM technology, based on the handling of the previous TDMA->GSM conversion.

    AT&T and Cingular (pre-merger you understand) BOTH did exactly the same thing during TDMA->GSM conversion â" they pushed GSM hard when GSM was not even fully rolled out on their own network. ANY problem I had was obviously because I did not have a GSM phone yet (including billing problems, and problems with texts not going through at all until they kicked my account a bit.) They pushed people to buy GSM phones in areas where they themselves had not deployed GSM yet, meaning the new phone would have been a paperweight. They pushed GSM in areas where the former TDMA relied HEAVILY on roaming, and there was no GSM to roam on, all the time swearing the GSM coverage would be better.

    Worst of all, they did in fact start turning TDMA down to like 2 or 3 channels WAY before TDMA usage had dropped enough for this to make sense; âoeOh, youâ(TM)re getting constant busy signals? Better get a new GSM phoneâ.

    (I did get a TDMA+GSM dual-mode phone â" a Siemens S46 â" but then when I was told the TDMA roaming was getting shut off, I bailed for Verizon at this point.)

    After I already bailed, people who clung to their TDMA phones encountered decreasing signal strength and increasing problems. The official line was equipment âoenatural degradationâ or that they were intentionally reducing TDMA signal strength, depending on who you talked to. Yes, they say they INTENTIONALLY worsened service, not to free up channels for something else, but just to make service worse to âoeencourageâ upgrades. Or at best, did not maintain their own equipment to keep it functional.

    Verizon, in contrast, has had almost no service impact adding EVDO to their network. They made sure if they accidentally reduced coverage (maybe misaimed an antenna), that they fixed it and brought service back. They kept analog in good shape right until the analog shutdown.. from what Iâ(TM)ve read they counted analog calls in the dropped call and fast busy stats.. so while urging people to replace the analog phones they kept service perfectly acceptable for them.

    -------------------
    Given past behaviour, I predict your GSM service will continue to get worse, and you may even get complete service failures â" well, more than now â" with AT&T becoming increasingly unhelpful other than saying âoeOh that wouldnâ(TM)t happen with a 3G phone.â

    Then, in ANOTHER 3 or 4 years, they will probably start âoedegradingâ 3G service so you can be pushed into buying ANOTHER new phone, this time with LTE technology.

    To be honest, this attitude towards service upgrades AT&T had pushed me away more than the actual lack of GSM coverage my area had at the time.

  • Shreveport too... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr@[ ]wnparr.com ['sha' in gap]> on Saturday January 03, 2009 @06:58PM (#26314907) Homepage Journal

    It's funny, I noticed this a month or so ago in Shreveport Louisiana. I live in an area where Shreveport is the closest 3G network. At home we have horrible signal fluctuations, but when it works Edge is mostly fine. Before Shreveport went 3G I would get 5 bars and Edge was pretty good (for Edge anyway).

    After the 3G switch, I still get 5 bars of service, but the Edge symbol almost never comes on, instead I get the weird little 'dot in a circle' that tells you you are one GPRS, and with a 1st gen iPhone that means no data whatsoever. Calls are great though.

    Occasionally the E will appear for a short time, and when it does it is like the Edge network that was there before 3G came. But it only lasts seconds, or sometimes maybe minutes, then goes away again.

    At least with this setup I know out of the gate I'm not going to get service when the edge icon is completely missing.

    The first time I noticed this I was with some people who had 3G iPhones. With the 3G disabled their phones were doing the exact same thing, so I know it isn't my phone being weird.

    This is one of the few times I feel lucky to be nowhere near 3G service, as it would make my fully functional phone not work properly, and I'd be 'incentivized' to upgrade. Now I can keep my working phone, and slightly less expensive data plan for the time being.

  • There are a lot of identical prices/features in the plans the major 4 providers offer, so much so that it seems like an odd coincidence if this is truly a competitive market between non-collusive entities.

    For example, say I want to buy a laptop cell-phone modem, and buy a wireless data plan. There are four providers who will sell me that, so you'd think I might have a choice of packages, maybe some carriers offering higher data limits for a higher price, others structuring their service with multiple tiers, etc. Instead, every provider offers exactly one plan, and all four have identical terms and prices: $60/mo for 5GB of data.

  • by nbahi15 (163501) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:09AM (#26317489) Homepage

    For me I choose AT&T over technology. I have no love for the company but GSM/UMTS is a worldwide technology, and for better or worse I am backing the standard. Verizon, and Sprint both deal in proprietary technology, which in my opinion is the real problem in the US. The FCC has allowed companies to use cell technology, nasty contracts, and DRM technologies (SIMLOCK) to provide customer lock-in. IMHO the FCC should dictate the technology, and it should be the same path most countries are on, GSM/UMTS/LTE. They should also disallow the contractual lock-in, and SIM locking.

    The government picking a technology standard that enables US customers to have real choice is a good thing.

  • by Shakrai (717556) on Sunday January 04, 2009 @01:52AM (#26317731) Journal

    I miss T-Mobile a lot. The coverage around here sucks (I spent half my drive to work with no signal) but the pricing and customer service can't be beat. I was getting 1,000 minutes for $40/mo.

    Now I'm on Verizon. Somehow they manage to occasionally beat T-Mobile on the customer service ratings. How that happens is beyond me. Verizon customer service is very hit or miss -- sometimes you'll get a great CSR and other times you'll get some pissed off miserable SOB that hates his job and takes it out on you. I've actually gotten to the point now that I'll just hang up and call them back if I think I might have one of the CSRs that falls into the latter category. It's just easier than arguing with them and trying to get the call escalated.

    How I miss T-Mobile :(

"Irrationality is the square root of all evil" -- Douglas Hofstadter

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