AT&T Mobile Boss: NYC & San Fran Are 'Underperforming'
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s wireless chief went further than other company executives have in explaining how the operator is addressing its 3G network capacity issues at a UBS AG conference in New York City this morning.
Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said that the operator has two major markets that are “underperforming” right now: New York and San Francisco. The company is “committed,” he promised, to bringing up standards in these markets to the rest of AT&T's network. (See 4G World: AT&T – an LTE Tortoise and AT&T CTO: We Know What's Best for You.)
In New York, de la Vega says that AT&T hit some issues as it switched on 850MHz frequencies because in-building penetration and general radio network performance improved. This, however, put much more stress on the backend of the network.
”In New York right now I think we’ve turned a corner and this is going to get fixed,” de la Vega told the audience. AT&T, in general, is working to upgrade backhaul across its network, replacing T1 lines with fiber and Ethernet.
In San Francisco, de la Vega said, AT&T has seen problems in the financial district because older “microcells” installed there cannot handle the deluge of 3G data traffic. The operator is upgrading its technology in these sites.
The mobile boss went on to say that AT&T is talking to customers about their wireless data usage now and trying to understand how that might change in the future. “Customers didn’t know how they are using data,” he said, explaining that many thought that email was a traffic hog, while video or audio “round the clock” are the real culprits.
Given all this, AT&T has been examining other ways of billing, rather than "all-you-can-eat" data packages. The operator is watching what competitors do around billing and the regulatory situation, de la Vega said. He didn’t commit to anything new in this speech.
U-verse update: Sub milestone, 24-meg tier
On the wired broadband side, meanwhile, the operator expects to pass 2 million customers for its U-Verse video service today. The company has also launched its new “Max Turbo” high-speed Internet service in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and in St. Louis ahead of a wider deployment. AT&T says its new U-verse service tier will offer downloads at up to 24 Mbit/s and uploads at up to 3 Mbit/s. (See AT&T Ratchets Up U-Verse Speeds.)
The operator is also talking about “One AT&T” services, which will start to include content convergence across platforms: “We’ll have the capability to allow customers to see the content you have on your TV, your PC, and your wireless device; we’re very close to allowing customers to move content between devices,” said de la Vega.
In 3G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) upgrades, the operator is sticking with existing targets. This means 25 to 30 high-speed packet access (HSPA) markets online by the second quarter of 2010, with 90 percent of the network covered by the end of 2010. LTE is going into testing next year, with deployment starting in 2011. (See AT&T to Boost 3G Speeds .)
AT&T is thinking about vendor selection now: “We’re in the middle of that right now, and you’ll be hearing more in the coming months," de la Vega said.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung