Wanted: New Scapegoat for AT&T’s Network Woes. Apply Within

by Matt Klassen on April 16, 2010

I almost didn’t want to write another story about AT&T’s problems: their customer complaints, their faltering reputation, their 3G network woes, or their shoddy service; but when you come across a report like this, you just can’t pass it up. In a study released earlier this week, it was revealed that while AT&T does indeed have the most mobile devices on its struggling network; it is a distant third when it comes to mobile data traffic.

At the outset this doesn’t seem all that controversial, but consider that AT&T has persistently claimed that one of the reasons for its shoddy network service is that it has to handle more mobile data traffic than any other wireless carrier. Not only that, but in 2009 AT&T claimed that it handled approximately half of all the wireless traffic in America. But, as this report from ABI Research shows, that just isn’t the case.

So it looks like AT&T will have to find someone or something else to blame for their disappointing network service. Anyone interested?

This report comes on the heels of the impressive news that AT&T does, in fact, have the fastest 3G network in the States, with its data transfer speeds out-pacing both Sprint and Verizon in head-to-head comparisons. AT&T has leveraged this information to explain its network instability issues by using the iPhone as a scapegoat for its problems.

According to AT&T, the high demands of the data intensive iPhone would cripple any network, and the fact that because of the iPhone its network handles more data traffic then any other American wireless carrier means, in AT&T’s mind, that it should be cut some slack.

However, as the ABI report indicates, together Verizon and Sprint carry 63 percent of the nation’s mobile data traffic, with the added note that each company individually carried over 16 billion more megabytes of data than AT&T reportedly did.

Well AT&T, can you think of any other reason why your network is so consistently problematic? Perhaps you just need some time to find another scapegoat. Of course AT&T spokespeople immediately challenged this report, writing that their studies have, in fact, supported their claim that they handle the most wireless traffic. So how does one explain this disparity?

One explanation may be that AT&T analysts are simply referring to the wrong information to compile their reports. It is true that throughout 2009 AT&T’s network saw more device activations than either Sprint or Verizon, but more device activations doesn’t necessarily translate into data usage.

Perhaps what AT&T has failed to realize is that while the iPhone users do use 10 times for data than the average network user, this data usage is still only 1/10 of what is used by mobile laptop connections, and it is here that both Verizon and Sprint considerably exceed AT&T.

So, while the iPhone does put more strain on a network than regular ol’ non-3G phones, this added data usage pales in comparison to what Verizon and Sprint’s networks have to contend with on a daily basis with their heavy wireless laptop traffic. So while AT&T may sport the fastest network in the country, its continued inability to handle its own wireless traffic means it certainly doesn’t have the best.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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