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AT&T: It’s Not Us…It’s You and Your Smartphones



Like a lot of folks, I love my iPhone, but am fed up with AT&T. Seth “the blogger guy” from AT&T put together a video in an attempt to educate all of us on how difficult it is to let subscribers reach out and touch someone. Apparently, smartphones are to blame. “We thought it’d be a good idea to take what’s being said head on.”

I don’t like this video because Seth (and the AT&T team behind the video) offer up a lot of excuses without taking any blame. Is it really a surprise that your network is going to get hammered when you’re selling so many smartphones? Is it a surprise that us subscribers are going to actually utilize the 3G service that they pay $30 per month for?



  1. Flavio

    09/04/2009 at 4:25 pm

    But what other option is there? Sprint is non-existant. Verizon is almost as bad as Sprint with their network – it is impossible to make a phone call when you have zero bars on either network everywhere you need to go – work, gym, home, school.

    T-Mobile is the only other viable option and they have less 3G coverage than AT&T…

  2. Xavier Lanier

    09/04/2009 at 4:51 pm

    I never worried about being able to send/receive calls when I had Sprint. My friends that have Verizon don’t complain about reception in SF.
    But yes, you’re right- there’s always for improvement.

  3. scoobie

    09/04/2009 at 5:46 pm

    We have exactly the same problem with the UK apple monopoly – O2.

  4. GoodThings2Life

    09/04/2009 at 7:30 pm

    Here in northeast Ohio, I’ve NEVER dropped a call on Sprint. I have coworkers constantly complaining about their AT&T services… slow performance and dropped calls at the top of the list.

    It’s absurd to me to hear a communications business place the blame on the consumers and their biggest partner (Apple), and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

  5. Mark Byrd

    09/04/2009 at 9:01 pm

    I thought the presentation was geared toward the average consumer, not you mobile pundits. They explained the problem and said they are working on it. How well they do is yet to be seen, of course. I am a mobile professional and travel world-wide. AT&T gives me the overall best experience and convenience for billing, etc. YMMV. The main thing I took away from the post and the comments so far is that you are whining – you want it all and you want it now and your want it cheap. Note I said cheap, not just inexpensive. It is a free market, so move to another carrier already. The fact is that all this non-essential rich media you guys are so addicted to has clogged up the available bandwidth. You like it, great, but it also causes problems for folks who have more mundane needs, too. It is so easy to cast stones at the big guys – you see it all the time from folks who rant on MS and fawn over (say) Apple, but mostly, the whiners really don’t have a clue about what it takes to solve the problem… not really. So, you just sit back and whine about it. Hey, here’s an idea – cut back on your non-essential usage and urge all your followers to do the same. Try to bring a solution to bear instead of just complaining for a change. Seems the socially responsible thing to do in this age…

    /rant off/

  6. ramfrancisuk

    09/05/2009 at 12:36 am

    The real problem here is the size of the US, its just so big. In the UK things are considerably smaller and easier for these networks to manage and upgrade. Possibly local plan laws may play a part in the coverage problem – limiting mast sites. Thirdly, maybe the pricing is simply to low, attracting too large a takeup for the networks to cope with.

  7. Xavier

    09/05/2009 at 12:37 am

    @Mark Byrd: Thanks for reading GBM and for sharing your point of view. First off, I and many others that have commented and contributed to this site are hardly “cheap” when it comes to technology. While we don’t expect perfection, we do expect value for our hard-earned dollars.

    After more than a year of AT&T’s 3G promises and “we’re working on it” statements I’m fed up. I barely use the 3G connection since its MIA more often than not here in San Francisco.

    I pay about $200 per month for two iPhone subscriptions. I’m confused as to why you think it’s too much to expect to be able to make a phone call for that kind of cheapness.

    I sincerely hope AT&T’s network improves, but to put the blame on the consumers is ridiculous. If you can’t deliver something you shouldn’t sell it.

    Also, in regards of switching to another network, there’s the issue of those pesky two-year contracts.

    I just think this video is trying to make consumers feel sorry for poor AT&T. Want to take this head on? How about apologizing for not delivering what you’re selling?

    If the problems are truly so dire, forget about MMS and just work on that whole “calling” thing. I don’t want it all. I just want to be able to call 911 in an emergency or be able to call my family to say hi. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for what amounts to a $2,400/year expense.

    In the meantime I’ll continue earning several hundred AT&T rollover minutes per month. Maybe I should just get a landline while I’m at it? Also, don’t worry about me using any non-essential features on the AT&T network That’s what I use my Sprint MiFi card for….

  8. Warner Crocker

    09/05/2009 at 7:45 am

    Color me confused. AT&T releases the wide eyed guy apology for the fact that its network can’t handle the traffic, and on the same day announces a deal with Loopt so that it can clog the data pipes even more to give you constant updates on where your friends are. I may be wrong on this, and a different data pipe is being used, but given that Loopt is a new monthly charge, should you choose to use the service, I think that if I’m correct, AT&T is talking out of both sides of its mouth here.

    All of that said if the problem is one of capacity, then AT&T needs to do what other businesses do if they can’t meet capacity. Stop taking on new customers until they can provide the capacity and service they advertise they provide. I’d love to sell more tickets to a show than I have available on a given night and make people sit on each other’s laps, but that won’t cut it.

  9. Mark Byrd

    09/05/2009 at 9:16 am

    @Xavier & Warner: OK, so I was just sort of fed up with what I view as whining and was perhaps a little caustic. Color me frustrated on my own pet peeves… ;-) Still, everyone could just quit hogging bandwidth and do something in the interim. Really – the rate at which the Twitter crowd” is consuming band width is growing faster than the population and it does really affect people with other “normal” needs. Yeah, I know – “Why should I do this? I am only one person and MY contribution is insignificant.” Kinda like voting, right? This attitude is selfish at the core. Understandable and I am certainly no saint, LOL. On the two year contract, don’t the other carriers have similar or other restrictions? I can pretty much bet that any post by Warner with even a mention of AT&T is going to contain his railing against them and I am tired of reading that. Get over it. Remember when GBM was about increasing productivity in your business so you could enjoy more or better personal time? I’ve seen this site, and others, transition from discussing meaningful (to ME, of course – LOL) matters to things more centered around multi-media, social apps and all that. It’s like the change when the JKotR guys “went Mac”… Its all about the site appealing to a different crowd. I do, though, understand the need to drive traffic to the site. I own a business and understand this, but I get tired of folks “piling on.” How about offering a realistic solution instead of just complaining? Again, I watched the video, but MY take on it wasn’t so anti-AT&T.

    All that said, GBM remains on my list of Daily Favorites… ;-) And, here I am whining about your whining… I do note that the GBM site is the slowest to load of my favorites – seems funny, being a “Mobile” site… Mobile should be slim and quick, not fat and rich to the point of degrading performance IMHO. Your own site is a slug – kind of like what you are railing against AT&T about. You keep putting up media rich content, knowing it will drive more “subscribers” and all it does is slow it down for everybody. So, if you want more “subscribers”, up your bandwidth, improve your hardware and back end coding and make it deliver what is expected from a MOBILE site. Oh wait, that takes money and other resources, right? That’ll have to wait until we get more ad revenue. THEN we’ll improve those things… Imagine YOUR problem(s) in this regard magnified a few orders of magnitude. So here I am, railing against the GBM site (on which I rely to get some “scoop”. LOL) and I am indignant that I have to wait so long for pages to load.

    “I tell ya, I am going to switch to JKotR because I am sick and tired of your being so irresponsible with your bandwidth management. Oh, wait – they are just as bad, but in their own way. What to do?… I think I’ll Blog about it and find a way to slam the site with every post. Somehow, I’ll try to use my stump as a way to let all my other fellow mobil-ites know how ‘unconscionable” it is for you to do this to us. That way, we’ll show you…”

    See how silly that is? YOU (meaning GBM, not you individually) don’t OWE me anything. True, you do not charge a subscription fee, so it is not a perfect analogy, LOL. Still, you do derive revenue from the traffic, and you push more and more on a less than adequate framework and that causes ME frustration, having pages fail to load, taking forever to paint, etc. Yes, additional bandwidth (and quality/reliability) will help your own site… some, but what about the rest of the infrastructure – better coding and responsible content management? Takes some effort, right?

    Oops, color me caustic again. All I see from the GBM side of this thread is casting more blame elsewhere – very similar to what is being said about AT&T. I guess it comes down to viewpoint. Again, I did not see the video in the same way Xavier did, not in ANY way that Warner EVER does. I’m just tired of the constant attack on AT&T and even the subtle ways is comes out. Come on, Warner – “wide eyed”??? Where is that sort of thing coming from? You would not like it is people slipped in “unkempt” when posting about your theater or site, would you?

    Whatever happened to staying more on the positive side of things? “Hey, looks like AT&T is finally working on their problems. I for one, can’t wait. I hope the other carriers make note and follow suit.”

    OK, now the REAL end of the rant. I’ll not post on this again – not in a “hit and run” fashion, but I imagine most readers are feeling “What’s with THIS guy? Sheesh, man – take a pill or something!” I am almost always universally more upbeat – glass half full – on stuff. I’ve just reached my limit on folks slamming AT&T at every turn. It just seems so childish/selfish and unprofessional. I think you can do better. I’ve seen it in the past and wish this attitude would return here.

    -MB – a pseudo-name-

  10. Xavier

    09/05/2009 at 11:19 am

    @MB- Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here and we do take your comments/suggestions to heart. We are working on a redesign that will be lighter so it can load faster on slower connections and mobile devices.

  11. Virtuous

    09/05/2009 at 12:56 pm

    AT&T richly deserves to get bashed by its customers and the media.

  12. Tux Penguin

    09/06/2009 at 3:43 pm

    @Xavier “If the problems are truly so dire, forget about MMS and just work on that whole â€Ŕcalling” thing. I don’t want it all. I just want to be able to call 911 in an emergency or be able to call my family to say hi. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for what amounts to a $2,400/year expense.”

    Isn’t that the message of the video? ATT is responding to the public pressure to bring MMS and tethering to the iphone. ATT says we have to expand our network just to keep up with the demand of growing usage of 3x per year.

    Just because you buy a car, gas and pay taxes doesn’t mean you won’t see traffic on a highway.

    I travel all over the country for work with my ATT Windows Mobile phone (Tilt). I have MMS and tether. I typically have good coverage. When I don’t I use my Sprint USB dongle for mobile broadband.

  13. JimAtLaw

    09/06/2009 at 11:27 pm

    The AT&T shill poster is a laugh. I had Verizon for 7 years before switching to AT&T for the iPhone. I often drop more calls in a week with AT&T than I dropped in a year with Verizon, and will shortly be paying the ETF to get off this ride. AT&T’s network drops calls, constantly, pure and simple – don’t whine about over-twittering, give us plain old working voice service, and until then, as other readers have so astutely observed, stop selling what you can’t deliver.

  14. Xavier

    09/07/2009 at 1:58 pm

    @Tux “Just because you buy a car, gas and pay taxes doesn’t mean you won’t see traffic on a highway.”

    So I would say that AT&T is the “gas” in your analogy. If I were to translate my frustration and experience with iPhone 3G/AT&T into a car analogy it would be this:

    I buy a car I’ve been lusting after from the local Mercedes dealer. In order to buy the car I have to sign up for subscription for 50 gallons per month with a major gas company for $200/month. As part of the deal, the gas company pays half the car’s sticker price, making the upfront cost of the car relatively affordable.

    There’s a special additive in this company’s fuel and I’m not allowed to use any other fuel or else the engine will blow up.

    I’m allowed to fill up my car nationwide at any of the company’s service stations. Awesome! I drive up and down the coast of California from my hometown of San Francisco to visit friends and family.

    At first everything goes smoothly. There’s never any lines at the service station and I really enjoy my new car.

    A few months later everyone else in the neighborhood jumps on the same deal. Now, every time I go to the local gas station there are long lines. Sometimes when I get to the front of the line there’s no fuel left. I’m told to hold tight until next week. Some weeks I can get three gallons, other weeks none. In the meantime, we are locked into paying $200/mo for gas, but can only access 10 gallons per month.

    Now I can’t get to work reliably. Sometimes I run out of gas with my nephews in the car and we’re stranded on the side of the highway. When clients come to my office I’m sometimes not there.

    We find out that the problem is the neighborhood service station only gets one fuel truck delivery per week and they really need three trucks to satisfy demand. They ask us customers to hold tight, and they will get around to getting more fuel delivered to our neighborhood. The company explains to us that this fuel is very expensive and that it’s even more expensive to buy more trucks to deliver it to us.

    In fact, they tell us they’ve spent billions of dollars building up infrastructure in Southern California. We hear from our friends that there’s plenty of this great fuel down in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t do us a whole lot of good.

    Customers start to complain loudly, but the gas company just keeps telling us that it’s very expensive to refine this special blend of fuel and that more of it’s coming soon to our neighborhood. In the meantime we’ll just have to keep paying $200/month regardless of how much fuel we consumer. If we don’t like it, we can just pay back the subsidy on the purchase price of the car.

    Some car owners with enough know-how modify their engines so they can run on normal gasoline, but now the cars can only go 55 miles per hour and the Mercedes warranty is gone.

    We hear the same song and dance month after month, but they never seem to really be tackling the problem. They are shocked and surprised that people actually want to drive to work. We hear about new pipelines and refineries and trucks, but they never appear.

    More and more people buy the Mercedes with the requisite gas subscription because it’s the hottest car on the market. The duo sells three times more cars than they had ever hoped, but haven’t increased fuel capacity in our neighborhood. Now there are 10x the number of these cars in our neighborhood and the fuel shortage is severe.

    The gas company starts producing online videos about how it’s doubled the number of fuel deliveries in most areas.

    The Mercedes is shiny, drives better than any car I’ve ever owned and the seats are super comfortable. The car is in mint condition, the roads are paved, but the fuel is missing in action.

  15. eg

    09/07/2009 at 3:55 pm

    Kind of makes my blood boil even though I didn’t fork over my cash. . . the moment they REQUIRE a data plan, they lose ANY possibility of excuse. Do they find there is too much traffic for them to handle? Step 1: stop requiring people to pay for what you can’t provide. (making excuses about how there are too many users just provokes anger)
    Conversely, why is it people pay for what the provider can’t provide???
    The whole thing is twisted up.

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