John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

AT&T 3G Improving–If You Can Get a Signal

iphonecallfailSo AT&T has finished upgrading its 3G footprint to HSPA 7.2, completing the first phase of an effort that will improve connection reliability and at some point later this year or in 2011, raise its maximum 3G data speed to 7.2 Mbps from 3.6 Mbps.

Welcome news for long-suffering AT&T (T) subscribers, who recently ranked the carrier dead last in the annual Consumer Reports survey of wireless customer satisfaction. But the carrier’s improvements only apply to cities where additional back-haul connections have been added to support those higher speeds.

Sadly, for New York City and Bay Area residents, neither region qualifies. As AT&T head of operations John Stankey told attendees of a Citigroup (C) conference Tuesday, those cities present particularly challenging density and zoning issues.

“I thought by the time we’d closed 2009 we would be in a better place in New York City than we were,” Stankey said. “But New York City is a little bit of a different animal and it’s a good example of having to scale in this data environment, where not only do we have a lot of capacity issues to deal with but physically there is network equipment and network elements that are needed to be changed out.”

Elaborating, Stankey added, “They just flat-out have hit their capacity levels and we have to replace them with new ones. And as a result of that, those transitions and that work has taken us a little bit longer and it’s been a little dicier than what we had hoped it would be.”

And evidently, the situation is equally dicey in San Francisco.

“Our challenges [in San Francisco] are largely zoning-oriented,” Stankey explained. “It’s a little bit tougher in places in San Francisco to do adjustments to antennas that we need to do in areas like the Financial District, where we had antenna structures that worked really well in a 2G environment. They need to be replaced to support 3G services and it’s just taking time to get the zoning ordinances square to replace those antennas and clean up the portions of the city that we are dealing with.”

Okay. So New York City and San Francisco upgrades are tough going–that’s understandable. They’re both big, tech-savvy markets with high data demands. Still, it’s a travesty that a carrier like AT&T still can’t reliably connect calls in either of them when the company is raking in 80 percent more wireless data revenue than it did in 2007.


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