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iPhone Straining AT&T Network 551

Posted by samzenpus
from the got-an-app-for-that dept.
dangle writes "More than 20 million other smartphone users are on the AT&T network, but other phones do not drain the network the way the nine million iPhone users do. Because the average iPhone owner can use 10 times the network capacity used by the average smartphone user, dropped calls, spotty service, delayed text and voice messages and glacial download speeds are the result as AT&T's cellular network strains to meet the demand. AT&T says that the majority of the nearly $18 billion it will spend this year on its networks will be diverted into upgrades and expansions to meet the surging demands on the 3G network."
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iPhone Straining AT&T Network

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  • slow data (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03, 2009 @07:58AM (#29297715)

    I would have had the first post, but I'm browsing from my iPhone.

    • Re:slow data (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:11AM (#29299227) Homepage Journal

      AT&T needs to spend that 18 billion on the "last mile". That 3G network is fine and dandy, but they are neglecting to serve millions of Americans who don't have anything better than dialup.

      Yeah, I have DSL now - but my sister in law just a couple miles down the highway still can't get it.

      • Re:slow data (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hodet (620484) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:20AM (#29300203)
        Why invest in infrastructure that will attract $40/month customers when you can build infrastructure that will attract customers willing to pay almost anything monthly for the latest technofashion device.
        • by weston (16146) <{westonsd} {at} {canncentral.org}> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @04:13PM (#29304005) Homepage

          Why invest in infrastructure that will attract $40/month customers when you can build infrastructure that will attract customers willing to pay almost anything monthly for the latest technofashion device.

          Every iPhone thread. There's always someone who thinks they have to share the oh-so-perceptive insight that the iPhone is largely a fashion accessory.

          Meanwhile, back in reality, the reason AT&T is apparently having these problems? They brought onboard a device with a featureset which (despite apparent inferiority to half a dozen other devices I'm sure you can find slashdotters to tell you about) has essentially resulted in a huge explosion of actual mobile data usage.

          AT&T's problems have nothing to do with the fashionability of the phone. They have everything to do with its features and the typical telco avoidance of actually building out service whenever they can get away with it.

  • And I thought... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:00AM (#29297723)
    All this time, I thought the iPhone was just an overhyped, overpriced smartphone that explodes. Now I see that, incredibly, it is doing some good: a major cell phone company is actually upgrading its network, after all these years of the US falling behind other parts of the world!
    • Re:And I thought... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by n1ckml007 (683046) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:02AM (#29297731)
      That's a good point. I have noticed this... Pandora streams fine on the '1G' network in the morning, come early evening and it will not steam smoothly at all. Very annoying, and there isn't even 3G where I live!
      • Re:And I thought... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:25AM (#29297919)
        Heh, i made the mistake of taking my iPhone on roaming mode through Europe. I knew it was going to cost me SOME... but I got an $875 bill for four weeks - and that was making about 10 calls. The rest.... internet usage.

        Suggestion to anyone who is travelling overseas with a phone on roaming mode. Turn off ALL internet access. It will save you hundreds!
        • Re:And I thought... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:30AM (#29297973) Homepage Journal

          Suggestion to anyone who is travelling overseas with a phone on roaming mode. Turn off ALL internet access. It will save you hundreds!

          Just limit yourself to wi-fi access. There have been enough horror stories about huge data roaming bills, but it sounds like the message still hasn't been passed on to everyone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Argilo (602972)
          Just jailbreak, unlock, and buy a prepaid SIM card in the country you're visiting. I used a couple hundred voice minutes and 2GB of data while in Bulgaria and it only cost me about $60. The jailbreak/unlock process is quite simple these days.
    • Indeed! God forbid AT&T actually have to upgrade their network. What has this world come to?!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh, but it's much worse! Customers are PAYING them to do it. Via exclusive, multi-year contracts, no less. Next customers will be expecting the kind of service that goes with the money they are paying for it. It's complete insanity! When will it end??

        Do the math: if an iPhone service plan is about $60/month (is that right?), that's about $720 a year * 9 million iPhone users clogging AT&T's network = ONLY $6.48 billion dollars a year of revenue, and that revenue is only locked in for 2 years. Compa

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        They'll probably go running to Congress asking for them to subsidize it. And, knowing Congress, they'll probably give it to them too.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by AndrewNeo (979708)

          They won't ask for money from the government, because then they'd be expected to actually improve their service.

    • by sadness203 (1539377) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:05AM (#29297753)
      they'll pass the invoice to the costumer, don't worry with that.

      Yes, they'll have a good network, but the price will be twice what you could expect in other country for a contract, with the 3 years signup, and all the bullshit they can include to milk their customers.
      • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:20AM (#29297857)
        Let them. All current customers can quite fairly state "Change in contract terms, AT&T? That's great! No, I don't accept, and it's good that there's this lovely clause about early termination without penalty. Thanks for giving me this lovely iPhone. I'll be sure to get it jailbroken and on a network which isn't a complete pig."

        Thanks to all those who sacrificed their hard-earned for this to be made possible, though!

        Disclaimer: I'm English. Written from the perspective of a USian, apologies if I've mis(correctly)spelled some words.
    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:20AM (#29297863) Journal
      Who wants to bet they'll get the system back to normal, stop there, and still advertise their network is "even better" as opposed to "merely adequate after mismanagement". Reliable service should be restored, but I won't expect improved service.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, every one of the 20 million iPhone users on the planet are just idiots. If only they had consulted you before making the boneheaded move of purchasing the device they wanted... Then they would've been much better off than they are now, with their overhyped, overpriced iPhone that does nothing but explode.

      It's so easy always being right.

  • Good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The iPhone users pay an ungodly sum for the privilege. The least AT&T can do is make the network adequate for the purpose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by exhilaration (587191)

      I'm paying $68/month for my iPhone - unlimited minutes, 500 texts, unlimited 2G data (plenty fast for me), no contract, amazing customer service, generally OK coverage, I'm on the phone for hours at a time without dropping calls.

      What plan am I on, you ask? Why T-Mobile's loyalty plan!

  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:05AM (#29297751)

    We get so accustomed to bad customer service and lousy throughput and high prices that it doesn't even dawn on us that the problem isn't the usage patterns of iPhone users but rather the consistently half-assed network implementations by American MOs.

    As more and more technology floats up into the Cloud, we are going to need more bandwidth to access it from anywhere. If the MOs can't keep up and implement a network that will support the kind of massive usage that is currently envisioned, there will be a massive breakdown akin to what AT&T is experiencing now.

    Don't blame the vehicles for bad roads. Blame it on the DOT.

    • by MeanMF (631837) * on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:18AM (#29297841) Homepage
      It is 100% Apple's fault for putting AT&T in a position where they don't have to compete with other carriers for iPhone business. If you were able to switch to Verizon or another carrier, you can bet AT&T would have upgraded their network a long time ago. AT&T is doing exactly as much as they have to.
      • by N1AK (864906) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:46AM (#29298145) Homepage
        Bollocks. If a network operator agrees to terms with Apple offering them a deal they believe they can't beat by distrobuting the iPhone through multiple networks then Apple made the right call. I don't have or want an iPhone and Apple get away with murder without being called on it, but this isn't their fault.

        Besides which how are you going to 'switch' networks? Pay off the remaining x months to AT&T and then get a new contract elsewhere?
      • It's far wider than that.

        AT&T is at fault for not making sure their network was actually ready for this.
        Apple is at fault for getting in to a carrier exclusivity deal.
        T-Mobile is at fault for having useless coverage outside of major metro areas.
        Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, etc. are at fault for continuing to push CDMA2000 shit rather than using the world standard of GSM, thus limiting themselves to the ghetto of the phone universe, just so they can fuck around with firmware to lock out features the phone would otherwise have.
        The FCC is at fault for not working to align our mobile phone frequencies with the rest of the world and allowing T-Mobile to deploy their 3G on a different band than even AT&T, meaning that most "world" 3G phones are still not compatible, locking any of those users to AT&T only in the US.

        If you want a phone that hasn't been fucked with by a carrier AND decent rural coverage, AT&T is the only game in the country here.

        I hate giving any arm of AT&T my money, but I don't have a choice for now.

        Fortunately three of the big four have now committed to using LTE as their 4G standard, so in a few years it will be technically possible to have choice in networks when using properly open phones. We shall see how the carriers try to fuck that up.

        • by IorDMUX (870522) <mark@zimmerman3.gmail@com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:36PM (#29301067) Homepage
          Hmm... I agree with you on your first two points, but not so much on the rest.

          T-Mobile is at fault for having useless coverage outside of major metro areas.

          Um... that's their business model. They are a smaller company in the USA than Verizon, AT&T, and so forth, and so rather than try to compete toe to toe with the big guys, they target city-based youth with lower-priced plans and features like Android. Don't get angry at them just because they don't make the products you want... if you aren't their target market, you don't buy their products, plain and simple. However, plenty of people do want what they have to offer, which is why they are still around in the United States.

          Verizon, Sprint, Alltel, etc. are at fault for continuing to push CDMA2000 shit rather than using the world standard of GSM, thus limiting themselves to the ghetto of the phone universe, just so they can fuck around with firmware to lock out features the phone would otherwise have.

          MHz for MHz, CDMA (used in CDMA2000) is superior to TDMA (used in GSM and such) from the provider's perspective. CDMA supports more individual connections per cell tower, increasing network capacity. Also, for early adopters, CDMA had the advantage of having a wider evolutionary path than GSM. Even previous GSM networks are moving to the WCDMA (wideband-CDMA) standard for UMTS, meaning that CDMA's early adopters dodged a bullet of costly upgrades down the line.

          The FCC is at fault for not working to align our mobile phone frequencies with the rest of the world and allowing T-Mobile to deploy their 3G on a different band than even AT&T, meaning that most "world" 3G phones are still not compatible, locking any of those users to AT&T only in the US.

          Given what I just talked about above, I'm kind of glad that the FCC didn't see fit to stick their noses in and force companies to adopt an inferior technology, or one that conflicted with their business models.

          If you want a phone that hasn't been fucked with by a carrier AND decent rural coverage, AT&T is the only game in the country here.

          Having recently purchased two phones from Verizon, I know that most of their models, both high-end and low-end, have multiple radios in the phone so that you can use CDMA here in the 'States, or switch to GSM/UMTS for roaming abroad if you choose. Roaming sucks, but it does under pretty much any carrier these days. The phone is still there, though, if you need to make the call.

          I hate giving any arm of AT&T my money, but I don't have a choice for now.

          Look around. Options abound.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TooMuchToDo (882796)
            Most carriers are moving to software driven radios. For them, moving from GSM to WCDMA will be as simple as changing config options and restarting each cell overnight.
      • by rho (6063) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:31AM (#29298691) Homepage Journal

        Remember waaaay back, in 2006 Bi (Before iPhone)? People thought Apple was mad to make a mobile headset. Then they released it at the ridiculous price of $800,000,000, with a 2-year contract and 1 soul. Everybody said "Craziness!"

        Apple had to give somebody exclusivity in order to shoehorn into the market as a complete newbie. Especially since they were going to require the carrier to make extensive changes to their infrastructure to accommodate iPhone-only features like visual voicemail. It was a gamble for both companies, if only a modest gamble.

      • by intheshelter (906917) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:36AM (#29298745)

        Way to not understand the issue. They didn't pick AT&T because they were the best network. They didn't do an exclusive deal because they wanted to exclude other carriers. They could have sold on any network and then the iPhone would have been restricted like all other phones on Verizon/AT&T. Phone features disabled, horrid application stores with overpriced apps that actually expire over time, etc.

        In order to give the customers the full features of the iPhone they had to find a carrier willing to depart from their usual crappy business practices and to do that they had to cut an exclusive deal. Blame the carriers. I'm sure Apple would just as soon the iPhone be used on any network by anyone.

      • by clf8 (93379) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:37AM (#29298763)

        Said it once, and I'll say it again. CDMA is a dead end, the world is moving to LTE. Why would anyone waste their resources on a technology with such a limited lifespan. Globally there are significantly more GSM networks than CDMA, and GSM is a natural transition to LTE. Until Verizon supports LTE (which won't be all that long), you won't see the iPhone there. Period.

        Sure, they could have opened up to more carriers in the US, like T-Mobile. But look, I'm sure AT&T offered them gobs of money to be exclusive. And yeah, AT&T's network has been, well, terrible, but did that stop everyone from upgrading to the iPhone 3G when it came out?

        I've been thinking about this article since I read it yesterday, and I think AT&T just screwed up their pricing model. Maybe their estimates were completely off on what they thought people would use for data. Maybe it is partially Apple's fault because they dictated some pricing terms (I do not have any idea). But if you look at simple economics, AT&T vastly misjudged the demand for data on their network versus the supply. It is understandable, previous smartphones couldn't do as much as easily or eloquently. AT&T should have charged more for an unlimited plan, and tiered pricing for capped services. As it is, they're leaving money on the table that could have been used to truly upgrade their networks. Is AT&T's cell plan cheap, not really, but would that have stopped people? Sure, there's an upper bound, but I believe AT&T's pricing is well below that.

      • by microcars (708223) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:49AM (#29298907) Homepage
        You can't use Verizon because Apple originally approached Verizon and they wanted nothing to do with it on Apple's terms.
        AT&T was the only carrier that was willing to agree to Apple's terms and to upgrade it's system to handle Visual Voicemail.
        In exchange for being the ONLY carrier investing in what -at the time- was an unknown and possible flop, AT&T got an exclusive multi-year distribution deal.
        AT&T acted as though the iPhone would just be a blip on the mobile phone market. Surprise!

        There was a TV commercial a few years ago that showed some company "launching" their website in real time.
        There was a "countdown" and then...they were LIVE! And then...they got an order! Hurrah!
        and then they got a few more orders! Hurrah!
        And while they were breaking out the champagne, someone noticed there was a problem.. The order counter was increasing at an very very rapid rate.
        Everyone got quiet. They now had a lot of customers, but how were they going to fill all these incoming orders?
        (I couldn't find the commercial for reference, sorry)
        • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:43PM (#29301161) Homepage

          I may be wrong, but I think it was an IBM commercial.

          But yeah, I think you're even being too generous toward Verizon and AT&T. I'm sure Verizon and AT&T both knew the iPhone was going to be a big hit. The problem was that Verizon has had a history of crippling phones and applying their own software and branding, and those weren't concessions Apple was going to make.

          My guess is that AT&T probably (a) didn't expect quite how much web browsing people would use their iPhones for; and (b) didn't really care because they're content to offer crappy service. What are people going to do, switch to Verizon? The iPhone won't work. Switch to Sprint? Ha ha, snort. I suppose they could switch to T-Mobile, but from my experience things won't get much better there.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I am not sure we can only blame AT&T on this one. I think the U.S. in general is going to be in for a general bandwidth shortage fairly soon. There is so much of the rural U.S. that doesn't even have high-speed Internet available yet. If we bring those people online that in itself will destroy our capacity. It's really sad the lack of work that has gone into our digital networks in the U.S., especially when compared to what has happened in Asia.

  • About time! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wmelnick (411371) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:07AM (#29297763)
    It's about time AT&T put some money into the network. The coverage and the dropped calls suck. I can't wait for the 2 year contract to be up. Seriously, it was only a few years ago that the US had the best networks around and was on the cutting edge with cell phones. But we are seriously lagging now. AT&T wanted the iPhone but thought they would be able to grab it without infrastructure upgrades Be careful AT&T - no good deed goes unpunished!
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ash-Fox (726320) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:11AM (#29297787)

      It's about time AT&T put some money into the network. The coverage and the dropped calls suck. I can't wait for the 2 year contract to be up. Seriously, it was only a few years ago that the US had the best networks around and was on the cutting edge with cell phones.

      I honestly can't remember a time when the USA came even close to Poland's or Germany's mobile networks. I don't think the USA even came to close to a 90% coverage like many other countries either.

      • Re:About time! (Score:4, Informative)

        by A. B3ttik (1344591) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:27AM (#29297951)
        That's because Germany and Poland only need about one Cell-Phone-Tower each to provide coverage to the entire country.

        Seriously, Germany is smaller than Montana and has almost 100x the population.
      • Re:About time! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:30AM (#29297977) Homepage

        Germany and Poland also doesn't have very remote locations either.

        Both countries have been heavily settled for thousands of years.

        Some of their cities are celebrating 1000 year birthdays.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nelsonal (549144)
        Europeans use their phones about 1/3 as much as Americans (in terms of airtime it's about 250 minutes/month vs about 750 minutes/month). So it takes far fewer network resources to meet peak capacities in Europe so more of a European telco's investment goes to improving speed/coverage.
    • Re:About time! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spad (470073) <slashdot@nOspaM.spad.co.uk> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:21AM (#29297873) Homepage

      I don't get this whole "Dropped Calls" thing - apart from when the network is totally overwhelmed, such as New Year, I've never had a call disconnect for any reason other than lack of signal (Usually moving into an elevator or a tunnel) in the UK.

      • Re:About time! (Score:5, Informative)

        by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:41AM (#29298093) Journal

        I'm an AT&T customer in the US, and I don't get it either. I live in a rural area, so I do get the occasional dropped call if I'm driving on a rural road and get out of range of a tower. But that has nothing to do with network load, it means I'd like to see AT&T put in more towers.

        I've had a couple of calls fail to complete (I dial the number, the phone pauses trying to get a free line, and I get a "your call cannot be completed" or "call failed" message). I'd say that's happened to me twice in the 9 months I've had my phone. That's probably an indication that my local tower is overwhelmed. But I've never lost a call in progress except drops that can easily be explained by lack of signal coverage.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by A. B3ttik (1344591)
      I've not really had any problems with AT&T. Can't remember my last dropped call. And I live in a busy area.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bdenton42 (1313735)
        In a busy area you have several cell towers to choose from. In a sparsely populated area you're just hosed if your one available tower gets overloaded.
  • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdotNO@SPAMgaryolson.org> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:10AM (#29297783) Journal
    This should be a useful exercise just for the sheer entertainment:
    1) create SETI-On-iPhone app which constantly fetches/uploads data
    2) convince large quantities of people to continually run app
    3) crash AT&T network
    4) ?????
    5) Profit

    Corollary: send a mirror copy of all data to fbi.gov. See if we can cause two incidents at the same time.
  • by MancunianMaskMan (701642) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:13AM (#29297801)
    wouldn't it be nice if network operators charged a fair price for Used bandwidth rather than taking $$$ for Jesus-phone "all-inclusive" deals. In suppose all the want is, err, as mucg of our money as they can get, and that's the way they get it. But if their price model would encourage thrifty bandwidth use by iUsers and iAppcoders, that would make it interesting for me, maybe getting a smartphone (more probably G than i) for less than a £35 contract here in the UK.
    • by alen (225700) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:20AM (#29297859)

      check the price of the BB Tour on Verizon. it's more than the iphone per month

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MoonBuggy (611105)

      As another poster mentioned, it's mainly the price of the handset that you're paying, not the bandwidth.

      You can get "unlimited" (subject to all kinds of crap, but as good as you'll get from anyone else) data and messaging for £15/month - only comes with 75 minutes of voice, but you can always use Skype. That'll even get you a reasonably capable Nokia smartphone bundled in.

      It's only if you want an expensive Android or Apple handset that it pushes the price up into the £30+ range; you

  • Ever notice the 3G networks around the other parts of the world haven't needed to bitch and moan about data usage of smartphones?

    About time they were prompted into investing some of the profits into the network, not into shareholders' collective pockets.

  • Text messages (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238)

    Maybe if they stopped pricing text at thousands of dollars per megabyte it would free up enough voice traffic that this wouldn't be a problem.

    • Re:Text messages (Score:5, Informative)

      by T-Bone-T (1048702) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:02AM (#29298319)

      SMS uses space in the signal that was otherwise unused. It is a free bonus that the carriers charge for because they can. Not text messaging is the same as text messaging.

      • Re:Text messages (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:39AM (#29299599) Journal
        Please can we stop moderating this up. That was true with GSM, but with more modern networks SMS uses the same data channels as other kinds of data. That has nothing to do with the grandparent's point, which was that if SMS were cheaper then people would use it instead of voice (not sure I agree; people seem more happy to send a text than make a one-minute call, even when they cost the same). Even this is wrong, because voice traffic works out at about 5MB/hour. A couple of accesses to Slashdot uses as much data as an hour of talking on the phone, so you'd need to eliminate a lot of voice calls to free up enough space for Internet use. A single YouTube video is often bigger than my total data usage from phone calls in a typical month.
  • Upgrade budget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by YourExperiment (1081089) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:23AM (#29297903)

    AT&T says that the majority of the nearly $18 billion it will spend this year on its networks will be diverted into upgrades and expansions to meet the surging demands on the 3G network

    Oh no! They're being forced to spend most of their network upgrade budget on upgrading their network! How will they possibly cope?

    • Re:Upgrade budget (Score:4, Informative)

      by guruevi (827432) <evi.smokingcube@be> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:51AM (#29298183) Homepage

      The thing is we gave the carriers $200B a long time ago for cheap broadband services decades ago so 18B sounds like a drop in the bucket (10% of the money they collectively stole) especially since there aren't that many major carriers anymore - we got 4 now - so they should at least invest $50B not counting the interest on that amount and the overcharging of the promised monthly fees by 3 or 4 times.

  • The average iPhone owner pays AT&T $2,000 during his two-year contract

    Wow. I know I'm playing the eurotrash card here, but the high-end contracts on this side of the pond cost EUR 45/month (with JesusPhone). $2000 on average for two years and poor 3G performance... ouch!

    /off to buy ATT stock, extortion now being legal

    • by alen (225700) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:32AM (#29297993)

      on our side of the pond we have cities with more cell towers than your entire country and we want coverage in every little corner in the US even if no one lives for miles around

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ledow (319597)

      45/month? That's 1080 Euros in the same time period, which is 1,546.91 USD (according to XE.com today). So, actually, we're not paying that much less than the US. Admittedly that's "high-end" but the US is a helluva lot bigger than any particular EU country and we'd end up paying roaming on top of that if we change countries. Also, some of that $2000 is likely to be things like roaming charges etc. anyway.

      So, ern... not that big a shock, really. Though why *anyone* would ever want to pay that amount of

  • Throttle their connection up their asses!!

    Not exactly the prettiest or politically correct solution, but that's the most likely solution short term.
  • Compression? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:36AM (#29298051) Journal

    I'm happy to hear that AT&T is looking at upgrades. Personally, I have run into almost no issues, but my area is a pretty recent recipient of 3G. Internet browsing got pretty slow midsummer, but AT&T managed through the bulk of tourist season with decent service. Now that most of our state's guests are headed home as the weather starts to cool and school gets back in session, I'm sure the load on the network will decrease.

    I'm curious, though. I know very little about Apple's infrastructure on the iPhone, but I know that most of my Internet access on the Blackberry goes through a central server (BES for companies or BIS for individuals) and that data gets compressed en route. The primary reason, of course, is so pages can load more quickly, but it also has a side effect of requiring less data be transferred, therefore less load on the network.

    Opera's mobile browser operates on the same basic idea - the "preview" you get of each web page is loaded as a very small and low-res image, then when you click on a section for details you zoom in on that area and it loads more detail. But the entire web page is not loaded to your phone up front - Opera's server serves up the parts you are looking at right now.

    Does Safari do this, or does it load the entire page in full detail up front so you can zoom in on the little bit you want to see? If it loads the whole page, Apple and AT&T might want to discuss some form of "preview load" and only load more detail as it is asked for. It'd probably cut data usage considerably and if the preview loads quickly it would even improve the user experience.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      Apple and AT&T might want to discuss some form of "preview load" and only load more detail as it is asked for.

      Yuck. Apple, Google, et al are pushing for cell phones to be accepted as full-blown, tiny computers. I can't imagine them wanting to pay for the bandwidth and the processing power to let the iPhone depreciate into yet another thin client. AT&T bought the responsibility of providing Internet access to millions of portable hosts - let them bear the costs of it.

  • by idiotnot (302133) <sean@757.org> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:39AM (#29298081) Homepage Journal

    ....especially Verizon, whose big brother in the UK (Vodaphone) is making them tear up the CDMA network for GSM. In some respects, AT&T is better-positioned today, and the continuing revenue stream from iPhones (something ungodly percentage of their new customers are iPhone customers) will allow them to invest in upgrades.

    T-Mobile still doesn't have 3G nearly anywhere, and even the EDGE capability is spotty in places.

    Sprint's got a friend-of-Barack, which has allowed them to push forward with their WiMax network faster than Verizon's planned 4G data (VHF analog TV spectrum), but they, too, are going to switch to GSM from CDMA for the Sprint portions of the network. Whatever was Nextel is unchanged.

    But none of those providers have any single thing that's generating new customers like AT&T, and some are still bleeding subscribers despite nifty stuff (looking at you, Sprint).

    In my experience, AT&T has been at least as reliable for voice. The data hasn't been as reliable as my last provider; but I'd rather have fast data 90% of the time, than unusably slow data 98% of the time.

  • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @08:42AM (#29298105)

    For ages now, but they keep adding towers to extend their coverage. The problem however is the backhaul, they have not been upgrading those, and while sure everyone will now have perfect tower signal, they still have crappy connections since the traffic is congested on the backhaul.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ecks (52930)

      Does anyone have details on the backhaul? What you are saying certainly explains my "more bars in more places" and still dropped calls experience.

      • by chill (34294) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @10:52AM (#29299819) Journal

        Cell towers are like big access points. There is a cable or fiber going back to the Central Office (CO) called a "backhaul". The CO has a bunch of ATM and ESS switches that switch calls from tower to tower (handoff) and route calls to other phones, including other networks.

        The backhaul size going back to the CO is one factor in determining the number of simultaneous calls that tower can process. For example, older towers used to use T-1 circuits, which allow for approximately 24 simultaneous calls. They're 1.54 Mbps for data rate. Towers in high traffic areas will sometimes have DS-3 coax (~45 Mbps) or even (rarely) OC-3 optical connections (~155.52 Mbps). There is about 4% overhead taken on those numbers, so actual payload thruput is less.

        Bars show you signal strength, but not how "busy" the tower is at that moment. That is why you can get "bars", but calls don't go thru. You can see the tower clearly, it is just super busy.

  • Same old same old (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:01AM (#29298305)

    This is they typical telco story. Be it transatlantic phone calls way back in the satellite era "All outside lines are busy now, please try your call again later, beep!", be it "broadband", or cellular phone service. The telco business model is:

    1. Establish a technology
    2. Charge an arm and a leg for said technology
    3. Oversubscribe said networks until they are practically useless, then blame the customer.

    You know, for a company pulling in 12 BILLION dollars a year, AFTER tax, there really is no excuse. It's not like they're going to spend the 18 billion to "upgrade" all at once. And you can BET that the "new" network will allow them to sell even more subscribers and/or charge even more for some new "must have" technology.

    Communications is a racket. Is it any wonder that Ma Bell was broken up, and yet her children have mostly eaten each other and are each as big or bigger than she was, in under 30 years? Yet this is the industry that cries poverty and "we can't afford it" when the idea of upgrading to a REAL (I mean Japanese or S Korean style) broadband network is put on the table. Of course not. They don't give a shit about providing service, they just care about their balance sheet and whatever other company they can swallow.

    But I for one feel no pity or sorrow for AT&T, and the suckers who sign exclusive multi-year contracts with them.

  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @09:17AM (#29298493) Homepage

    I see three possibilities. First, AT&T hasn't invested in their network enough. That's a given. Second, iPhone users are just network hogs, I don't think so.

    So that leaves us with possibility three: the iPhone is the first phone that isn't an incredible pain to use.

    I think that all other smart phones are artificially low in bandwidth usage because they're hard to use. The IE5 based browser on Windows Mobile (I know they recently improved it) in my experience was a total joke and almost unusable. The browser on BlackBerries, in fact the UI as a whole, is not designed to ease of use at all, it's "here's an empty button we can use". That only really leaves non smart phones, and even IF you had a data plan, I'm sure we all know how easy browsing with those things was.

    Basically the iPhone is the first device it's possible to easily surf the web without wanting to throw the phone into a wall.

    When you give your customers something that actually works and is usable... they use it.

    Go figure.

  • Boo-hoo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by naasking (94116) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [gniksaan]> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:02PM (#29301391) Homepage

    Translation: "Now we have to actually spend money to satisfy our customers." Cry me a river.

  • A proposal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @01:38PM (#29301809) Homepage

    How about this: Cell phone companies are no longer permitted to own cell phone towers. Instead, we have

    (1) Stores selling cell phones.
    (2) Service companies offering cell phone contracts.
    (3) Cellular Service Providers (CSPs) that provide cellular service to phones, by billing the service companies (2)

    So I go to Wal-Mart (1) and buy a phone. I activate it with AT&T (2). My phone finds a nearby tower that speaks a compatible protocol, that is owned and operated by a CSP (3). The CSP then tracks my usage and bills my service company (2), who then bills me.

    This basically takes the internet approach, and applies it to the cellular network.

    Advantages:
    - No more tying of cell phones (1) to service companies (2)
    - No more long complex service contracts, because it removes barriers of entry into that business, and because it is easy for cellular users to switch.
    - Increased incentive to move toward a single standard. No more CDMA because: who would want to finance a tower that isn't going to work for new phones and customers?
    - No concept of "roaming" charges since cell towers are no longer tied to a specific provider.
    - More efficient coverage since there are no longer redundant towers. Ex: Today, T-Mobile and AT&T may both build a tower in the same place, to service their own respective customers. In this system, one tower would suffice.
    - More incentive to build towers where it is profitable, regardless of whose customers they are. Ex: Verizon builds towers in places where they have customers. But they won't build where they do not have customers.

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