September 3, 2009 10:14 AM PDT

Customers angered as iPhones overload AT&T

Customers angered as iPhones overload AT&T

AT&T's network is straining to meet iPhone users' demand, resulting in dropped calls and delayed messages.
(From The New York Times)

The story "Customers angered as iPhones overload AT&T" published September 3, 2009 at 10:14 AM is no longer available on CNET News.

Content from The New York Times expires after 7 days.

50 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
I'll stick with my Samsung phones. They do everything I need, and everything I wanted to do with zero delays.
Posted by Super2online (2665 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Since when is this new? Around here AT&T/Cingular had these problems long before the iPhone was released.
Posted by PhaseDMA (165 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree, AT&T has always been terrible.
Posted by eltoro2827 (564 comments )
Reply Link Flag
http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=15

mms coming sept 25
Posted by ulm_warhawks2008 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmmm... I could have swore the MMS* legal disclaimer states "coming late summer" and if my calendar is correct, Sept 25th is in the FALL.
Posted by thelemurking (1410 comments )
Link Flag
A 4 day delay is not legally actionable unless you sign a contract with a penalty clause and that exact date listed. Did you?
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
Of course it wouldn't bother you ikramerica... you are one of the biggest Apple fanboy's around here. The whole point of the matter is it should have been there from the start. It's not like Apple invented MMS, it's not like the iPhone is the only phone on AT&T's network capable of MMS. So why is the iPhone so different in it's implementation of MMS that it requires months of maintenance at AT&T before being available?

I'm just happy that they finally had the balls to give us an actual date. This "late summer" business was just foolish, especially when they cannot meet their articulated deadline.

I thought the whole point of fine print and legal disclaimers was to prevent them being held liable and sued. So if they cannot meet the obligation set forth in their own fine print, then why shouldn't it be legally actionable. I had to sign a contract with AT&T to get my iPhone. Part of that was unlimited text that included MMS and unlimited voice/data.

Legally speaking, LATE SUMMER does not mean EARLY FALL... sure it may be 4 days, but a legal disclaimer is a legal disclaimer. If a company is going to be shady and use fine print, the least they can do is honor it.
Posted by thelemurking (1410 comments )
Link Flag
AT&T are showing their inability to support the clients that they crave.

In Europe, they have had many millions more smart phones on their
3G and 4G networks without any real issues. The North American
cell providers are behind the times, and now they are attempting to
blame a single device (the iPhone) for their cell phone infrastructure
issues. Get real guys (AT&T).

In Canada, ROGERS appears to be supporting the 3G network just
fine. The 3G infrastructure is still fresh to boot.

There are other 3G devices being sold, so I doubt AT&T can ball up
all of the 3G congestion issues to only iPhones.

The customers will use their devices to do what anything that it
allows them to do. If one of their APPS generates high traffic loads
on the network, that's just too bad. Users doesn't count their bytes;
that a thing of the past.

Maybe the AT&T marketing people have outmarketed (oversold) their
technicians?

:-)
Posted by c_payne (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are correct about Rogers in Canada, It's fast and on all the time and I find I get better speeds with 3G than I do with wifi, I never have wifi turned on.
Posted by EarthToApple (162 comments )
Link Flag
While the 4G technology is now widely available in Europe your perception that "every" person there uses a smartphone/PDA at the same rate as people are using their iPhones in the USA is bogus. The iPhone is a toy and is used as such for multiple useless applications which use enormous amounts of data without being efficient in any way since every schmuck can now download the API and be "an iPhone application developer". In Europe data services are still very expensive and not affordable for many people so the numbers you mention above are inaccurate. I am one of the ATT customers who will soon switch to Verizon because of the recent ATT's poor network performance caused by the iPhone. Interesting enough I actually spoke to a business support agent who "assured" me that the recent outages and interruptions are NOT caused by the iPhone herd and now this article on CNET a day later.
Posted by minkokiss (7 comments )
Link Flag
Well minkokiss, since I am paying enormous amounts of dollars every month for unlimited data... It should matter what the data is. If I am paying for unlimited data, they better not complain about it overloading their system.

It's annoying that on some days, it takes me 10 minutes just to listen to a VVM. What's the point of having voice mail [visual] if I can't check it?
Posted by thelemurking (1410 comments )
Link Flag
Its the economics silly. In the USA, they spend about half of their revenue on advertising. They ought to spend more on technology and let the good service pull customers, instead, they offer bad service and brag about it.
Posted by Been_there_Saw_it_before (465 comments )
Link Flag
ATT got what it asked for. All the wireless companies have been trying to upsell expensive services but none had a device that could actually use the services conveniently. Enter the iPhone and now ATT is complaining that the iPhone is overtaxing their network. Choice.

ATT's network in Los Angeles was garbage BEFORE the iPhone, and it really stinks now. Many of my friends deserted Verizon to get the phone. I can see their caller ID, but almost never actually have a conversation with them before the signal breaks up or the call drop. I tell them to call me when they get to a landline.
Posted by darkridedp (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not my Los Angeles experience at all. What Los Angeles do your friends live in? ATT is bad in many cities, but LA is not one of them.

I do not know how to tell if a text is late, though. Will the time show up as the time sent or the time received?
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
I just bought a MacBook Pro and the Apple employees kept asking me if I had an iPhone, and my response was..."NO! I hate AT&T!"
Posted by lcview (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
After getting spotty service for the last month on my regular cell phone, I called. The two closest towers near my house are both broken. Come on, AT&T. Get your act together.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I guess the best advice I can give iPhone users is to move to the SouthEast US. I've been a Bellsouth/Cingular/ATT customer since the mid 90's and haven't had a dropped call in years.

However, I can't comment on 3G. I've got a 1st gen iPhone which is a bit slow, but very reliable. I routinely get a data connection in areas that ATT doesn't even offer cell service.

Maybe I'm just lucky. This might be a good time to buy a lottery ticket. :)
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yea. I am in the southeast. I can't get 3G at my home, but I can pretty much everywhere else and with very good speeds. And of course at home I don't care since I have wifi.

But I know people in the bigger cities and it does sound pretty awful for them.

I think ending the exclusivity would help everyone (except AT&T). The loads on the combined carrier networks might be more manageable overall.
Posted by Mystigo (183 comments )
Link Flag
@ rcrusoe ... got that right, been with them since BellSouth too. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a dropped call or no service. Most of the time it was either on a very long bridge or in an elevator.
Posted by shycelticwitch (1042 comments )
Link Flag
Houston is also very good, and when they first rolled out 3G, it was faster than DSL in my tests, but that was before it was overloaded with cell phones. Anyone know how Houston is doing now?
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
I am in the south east and have been very happy with AT&T's coverage compared to that of Sprint. I had my first dropped call on my iPhone yesterday, but considering where I was traveling, it was a non-issue. The only other issue I have had is every now and then it will take 5 to 10 minutes just to pull down a voice mail (VVM) It doesn't happen frequently, so it's not that big of a deal. After being with Sprint for around 9 years, AT&T is leaps and bounds better in my area. Maybe it helps that there is a big AT&T call center 20 minutes from me ;)
Posted by thelemurking (1410 comments )
Link Flag
I live in Oklahoma and have had not problems with the network here. Granted, OKC isn't a huge metropolis like LA or NYC...
Posted by chonnom (88 comments )
Link Flag
Of course the mere fact that ATT has been throttling its' bandwidth to 1.7Mbps is missed/overlooked by the reporter and something that would - naturally - get device users p!ssed anyway, given that the 3G had a (quoted) max of 3.6 and the 3GS a (quoted) max of 7.2, so 3G users aren't even getting half in the first place!!
Posted by Eddie-c (198 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Had an i-phone it's now off but at first it was fantastic until about 3 months into the contract the phone froze and closed safari constantly....infuriating.........i had to reset it all the time and got voice mails way late... i don't like to complain a lot......but this was horrible for an 1st smartphone......i keep it as an i-pod touch now....
Posted by Chao_Sama (127 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It has a 1 year warranty. Either get it replaced or stop complaining.
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, I have had my iPhone now for about 3 months. I will be dumping it in October when the next wave of new cell phones comes out.
Posted by robvme (141 comments )
Reply Link Flag
people treat this like a religion..... don't see any cell companies that are perfect! verizon isn't that great in texas but at&t is! when i wen't to colorado, then it was a different story but don't be hatin! think verizon would have had the same probelms if it had the iphone on their network! it's like walmart having a surge of customers come in for a big sale and all they have is one cashier, that didn't see this much demand but they're working on it! think people just need to chill.......
Posted by jr24ds (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Again, it should be pointed out that most iPhone carriers throughout the world are not having problems keeping up with demand, and in most cases are offering levels of service that are far superior to anything any U.S. cellular carrier can offer.

iPhone customer satisfaction outside the U.S. is very high because those users simply don't have as many problems with their carriers and service levels are very high.

U.S. cellular customers (regardless of what phone they use) have every right to be p*ssed off by their provider's price-performance value. Americans pay way too much for mediocre service.

The same goes for broadband Internet. In many countries, people are getting 5-10 times the broadband speed for $20-30 per month.
Posted by cvaldes1831 (2084 comments )
Link Flag
But that doesn't matter. jr24ds is right, you are not.

No matter what is going on in other countries, we live in the very large, very fragmented USA cell market. And in this market, if Verizon had the iPhone, we would be hearing about the SAME problems, but in different cities. If T-Mobile had it, nobody outside of major companies could even get one. If Sprint had it, the complaints would be even worse.
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
@ikramerica--2008:

Actually, neither jr24ds or you (ikramerica--2008) is right.

That's why this article was written by Cnet.

U.S. cellular carriers blow. The rest of the world gets better, sometimes far better cellular service. There are other countries where there is no carrier exclusivity.

Americans are letting our technological superiority slip away. Actually, we are hemorrhaging it away.

And people like you seem to think this is normal.

You are dead wrong.
Posted by cvaldes1831 (2084 comments )
Link Flag
No, we ARE right. You are too dense to understand that we are not saying that these problems would exist in other countries, just that they would exist with other carriers in this country, just in different cities.

Your comments, though completely VALID, are IRRELEVANT to his post, so it made little sense for you to respond with them.

Your comments are like responding to a question about which congested highway to take in Los Angeles with information about the lack of highway congestion in Perth Australia. While it may be true, how does it matter to people in Los Angeles?
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
I have to agree with jr24ds and ikramerica here. Some areas are just better with some carriers than others. Some of it may be perception, but it can be anything from the lay of the land, to how many subscribers are hitting the towers, to how much money was invested in the localized network. It's going to vary from place to place and carrier to carrier. Tower studies are necessary to determine the best place to put up a tower for the best coverage. Just dropping in a tower on a hillside by the interstate isn't always the best idea. Sometimes they just don't account for the terrain and where to get the best overall coverage when it's just cheaper and convenient to drop one at an easier location.

Then you are going to have problems with mergers and so on... for instance, SunCom was very reliable where I live, but the moment they made the switch to T Mobile (who was not in my area) the service went down hill. If you did not have a T Mobile phone, you were bound to have dropped calls, roaming, delayed text messages and so on. Personally, I don't think you should have to buy a new phone in a merger situation... they should provide you with a replacement. It's not your fault as a customer that your phone/sim card is not as compatible with their switches and network. Altel and Verizon are having a lot of problems here as well. Altel was the best rated carrier in my area years on end. But Verizon seems to be screwing over Altel customers left and right and many of them are leaving. It's going to be interesting because AT&T will be picking up some of Altel's customers and areas where Verizon is not allowed to tread... so it will be interesting to see how they will handle CDMA and GSM in those cases.
Posted by thelemurking (1410 comments )
Link Flag
I've said it before and I'll say it again until the situation changes: U.S. cellular carriers suck large rocks.

The iPhone did not make the AT&T network suck. AT&T's network sucked before the iPhone was released. AT&T simply isn't putting in much (perceived) effort in improving their network.

AT&T is struggling to get basic 3.6Mbps 3G service reliably running in major metro areas like NY, LA, SF, etc., let alone deployment of the higher speed 7.2Mbps HSDPA upgrade (which is scheduled to be completed in 2011). In contrast, Japan and Hong Kong already have 21Mbps HSDPA networks in service today. Basically all of Asia and Europe already runs 14.4Mbps or 7.2Mbps HSDPA service.

AT&T is literally three iterations of cellular network speed behind.

http://hspa.gsmworld.com/networks/
Posted by cvaldes1831 (2084 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They are having the sample problem with their Uverse cable/isp/phone service. So many people are switching to it that they can't handle the demand. You see Att trucks everywhere now in the south sub of chicago trying to add or maintain lines. The service is nice vs comcast, but they need to get it together.

I was in the western suburbs of Chicago and I swear everyone has a iphone.
Posted by drbyte (268 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hahaha. Blame the iPhone. Now I've heard it all.
Posted by AJ Pants (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Slim and sleek as it is, the iPhone is really the Hummer of cell phones."

Ok, I want to know the data study that was used to come up with that statement. A Hummer USES more gas in traveling the SAME distance than most other vehicles. Does the iPhone really use MORE DATA bandwidth doing the same things OR, as I suspect, that users of the iPhone actually use their iPhones for more DATA BECAUSE it provides a much more useable data experience than most of their competitors...

Also, AT&T's network has had issues for years and years... While users of the iPhone probably put more strain on the network because they use their iPhones for more data... This is a trend that is going to continue and will not be limited to the iPhone, so the carriers better get serious about increasing their network capacity... This is like blaming Alexander Graham Bell for the lack of a nationwide telephone network in 1880 because he came up with the telephone in 1876... Where is the logic?
Posted by daveinburl (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
There go the Apple fans bashing AT&T again. Face it, it is you who use the iPhones that make a network crap. Just wait and see when you get it on your favorite network once the exclusive deal with AT&T is over. You will see the same problem over again without realizing how much unnecessary strain you put on the network.

All of the companies are now selling laptops as well. this will become even a bigger nightmare for regular phone users because some guy or girl who wants to show off rather than the business people who actually gain something from it use too much data of the total capacity.
Posted by sharmajunior (2503 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In NYC no matter which ATT phone you have, you always have had dropped calls crossing any bridge or tunnel since before the IPhone!
Posted by glgl_55 (2 comments )
Link Flag
So true. People did't use ATT before the iPhone because they stunk in NYC, but then bought the iPhone and expected the experience to be magical somehow.
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
My IPhone worked much better in Europe (and I paid ATT a fortune for it) There networks have always been superior.
Posted by glgl_55 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My Sony Phone (ATT) worked far worse in the South of France, rural Germany and suburban Australia. Their city networks may be superior, but not everywhere. I get much better coverage in out of the way places in the USA than I do in out of the way places in Europe or Australia.
Posted by ikramerica--2008 (2247 comments )
Link Flag
Sony Ericsson phones sold by AT&T are special US versions; even those sold as "quad band" generally they lack all the frequencies typically used in Europe, so it's not surprising to get poor coverage outside of city areas.

If you used the European model of the same phone your experience would be vastly different.
Posted by mbenedict (1001 comments )
Link Flag
When will people start to realize the US is falling behind the rest in technology and we all in the US basically live in a equivalent of a technology third world country? The Far East and Western Europe have better phone, better cellular networks and get much better internet connect speeds than the US.
Posted by satcomer (268 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I keep pointing this out, but many commenters here seem oblivious to the fact that there are countries other than the United States of America. It's most noticeable in discussions about cellular networks or broadband Internet, but the cluelessness is sadly pervasive.
Posted by cvaldes1831 (2084 comments )
Link Flag
Even if iPhone users are using their phones more than other smart phone owners, if the network can't handle the traffic then the service provider has oversold it's capacity and is solely where the blame rests.

Having said that, I believe all service providers should prioritize their bandwidth right now while they have the opportunity, and reserve a chunk of bandwidth specifically for voice and text. These two functions are the main purpose of cell technology, and to have voice and text users suffer because smart phone owners are over using their devices (or because the service provider over sold the bandw idth, which ever you prefer) is not acceptable.

I'm surprised there has not been any class action lawsuit over this issue in the US. You'd think some money grubbing lawyer would be looking for a payday here.
Posted by Mergatroid Mania (8395 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm often on calls, while my laptop is tethered to iPhone. No wonder my calls occasionally gets dropped. :)
Posted by jasonmli (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Well one of the major blunders is att did was not to insist at the ipoo 3g and 3gs have a real 2 g radios for voice and text and 3g for data . The Ipoo dumps all it traffic on the 3g network needlessly. Ive notice especially with my new lg Evn touch when I place voice calls or send text messages its using the 1rtxxx band and not evdo rev a. I have zero delays with sending/receiving voice calls calls , text messages or vocie mails. ATT was too chicken to tell apple to keep a real 2g radio and they shot themselves in the face. LOL
Posted by bob1xxxx (357 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CDMA and GSM/UMTS networks work very differently when it comes to handling of voice and data. 3G CDMA service (1xEVDO) is exclusively for data. The phone has to switch to 2G mode (1xRTT) for voice or SMS. It simply cannot use EVDO for voice or SMS. The name alone, EVolution Data Only, says that. A 3G CDMA phone also has to keep both a 1xEVDO and 1xRTT connection open simultaneously at all times except when sending or receiving voice calls or SMS. UMTS (3G) was designed for voice and data on the same network from the beginning. It uses the same backend switching systems GSM does, which makes it the obvious evolution from GSM, but can handle voice and data traffic over one network. And it can even handle voice and data simultaneously. If a 3G UMTS handset has to drop down to 2G (GSM) mode, it does it for both voice and data. A UMTS handset also does not maintain both UMTS and GSM connections simultaneously like a 3G CDMA phone does.

On the topic of AT&T having some major issues with the iPhone, well, I have to agree. It took until almost 2 months after I got my iPhone 3G S until I could get a semi-reliable 3G signal. I actually had to leave it on 2G mode or the thing would not get a signal at all! Recently I've been able to leave 3G on and at least the phone switches to 2G mode when needed instead of hanging on to a useless 3G signal. Considering that there have been no radio software updates in that time, this was an AT&T issue without a doubt. I still think their 3G network is a bad joke. On launch here in central Denver, T-Mobile had a far, far superior 3G network. It actually worked most places I went. But I wanted an iPhone so I now have the worst cellular service I've ever had. Cingular service here wasn't that bad 4 years ago and even Nextel never dropped calls or didn't complete calls as much as AT&T has in the past 2 months. In fact, I've had more dropped or non-completed calls with AT&T the past 2 months than I had with T-Mobile over 5 years. If it keeps up I may have to eat the ETF and go with a different phone and provider. I love my iPhone but I love having reliable service even more. I'm holding out for the 3.1 update that hopefully will resolve some issues. If not, well, I'll have to start saving and go somewhere else.
Posted by donovan1983 (16 comments )
Link Flag
Just don't buy any telecom stocks. Their profit margin is thin, and the competition is extremely high.
Posted by joelam888 (300 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Maybe people should realize the the iPhone should just be used as a PHONE!!!. I know it can do more, but USE your laptop for the functions instead of complaining to the masses on how it cant process information fast enough.

USE logic people!!!!
Posted by tekwiz4u (350 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.