AT&T: Getting the User View

2:35 PM -- At first glance there appears to be a striking gap between what AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said it would do to upgrade its backhaul network in 2011 and what it now says actually happened.

In January 2010 at the operator's developer conference in Las Vegas, CTO John Donovan said: "We expect that the majority of our mobile data traffic will be carried on fiber-based backhaul by the end of 2010." (See AT&T Says It's Ready for Wireless Growth.)

Little more than a year later, on AT&T's fourth-quarter conference Thursday, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was asked where the operator is at now. "We’re in the low to mid twenties in terms of deployment currently. We expect to see 65 to 70 percent of our traffic covered by the end of the year," Stephenson said on the call.

Now these two statements might not be as difficult to reconcile as they seem to be at first. It's possible that a good portion of AT&T's heavy mobile data users are bunched together in cities that have been steadily upgraded over 2010.

We know that AT&T has been frantically working on upgrading its network in NYC and San Francisco. In Donovan's 2010 developer conference slides, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Charlotte and Miami are listed as markets with upgrades in process too.

So maybe the issues are already in hand? AT&T seems to think so.

"We’re really starting to feel good about the network situation," Stephenson said on the earnings call today.

So here's what I want to know: How's your experience of AT&T's 3G service now?

Write into the message board below detailing what city you're in and what type of device you are using. This should help to give a clearer picture of what's going right and wrong and where.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:14:24 PM
re: AT&T: Getting the User View

AT&T is still pretty bad in Chicago, even though they've made upgrades here. I've begun to accept dropped calls as a normal part of a wireless service.

schlettie 12/5/2012 | 5:14:19 PM
re: AT&T: Getting the User View

AT&T 3G coverage seems pretty good in Raleigh and surrounding communities.   There are places that I get 3G coverage where I could never get good GSM coverage.

GeorgeH 12/5/2012 | 5:14:15 PM
re: AT&T: Getting the User View

That's the new AT&T's core problem. They want things to be like they were when their namesake company was in its glory. That was Ed Whiticare's dream. Their network people are conservative to a fault. They wish for the "We don't care, we don't have to" glory days. I am a long time 3G subscriber, rely on my Blackberry and air card coast to coast. I have stayed with AT&T solely because of their GSM platform, both for international reasons and I need to talk and surf at the same time. Their fringe area coverage is random at best. In small or medium  metro markets, they are the fastest based on side by side races with associates who have Verizon and Sprint. But overall, the total customer experience is abusive. 

kemyst 12/5/2012 | 5:14:01 PM
re: AT&T: Getting the User View

I've been using ATT since early 2010 in the bay area. I stick with them mostly for roaming and the need for simultaneous voice & data/email. The early 2010 service was abysmal, with major coverage holes and continuous voice drops. Voice quality was highly variable and SMS were frequently delayed.

Now in 2011, the service is reasonably good. Throughput is still not so great, but voice reliability and quality are up and I rarely get delayed SMS. No coverage areas on major highways are still a problem, so call drops when driving are inevitable.

Its a massive improvement, but they still have a bit of work to go if they want to be #1 on network quality.

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