So What’s Up With AT&T’s Network?


new-att-logo2I remember when Om divorced his iPhone over the AT&T (s T) network issues he was having. I kept telling him that here in the sticks where I live, it’s been a rock-solid experience. When visiting our offices in San Francisco, I feel the pain: poor signal strength with various fluctuation, crawling data speeds, and my very first dropped calls. Luckily, the office visits are just a few days long, and when I return home to wide-open spaces, all is right with my iPhone. (I like going to the office; I just don’t like the phone issue.)

But recently, something happened, and I’m not sure what it is. I started to notice it about a month ago: two signal bars where I used to see five and calls going right to voicemail. Say what? I though it was just me, but then I read Ed Oswald’s recent post about AT&T issues in rural areas. All of the same symptoms are there. What used to be a safe haven for me in the land of cows and farms is starting to become a frustrating exercise in futility, and I don’t know why. Are the recently announced network upgrades causing service issues? Has AT&T sold one iPhone too many in my area? I simply don’t know.

Since I have a first-generation iPhone (s AAPL) and didn’t upgrade to the iPhone 3G last year, I easily qualify for the maximum subsidy, and therefore the lowest price, for a new iPhone 3G S. I’m starting to wonder: Will be worth it? Last month, I thought the network upgrades would cement iPhone exclusivity for a few more years. Perhaps it will, but a solid phone with a shaky network is like driving a Corvette that’s down a few cylinders.


Joey Peroni

Move to the city you trailer living rural rednects. Problem solved. Why do you need an iPhone in the boonies anyway?


That’s why I like Singapore. You can get full 3G signal everywhere you go. Never have droped calls or no reception.

Phone User

Original iPhones (EDGE only) may experience degraded signals in areas where the 3G network (and eventually, HSPA+ enabled network) are being remapped to take over the 850Mhz spectrum (formerly EDGE). This is being done as part of the transition to 3G only handsets, and gives the 850Mhz spectrum over to 3G handsets for better building penetration. That leaves EDGE devices feeling inferior, as signal starts fading fast (higher spectrum, weaker penetration).

Upgrade to iPhone 3G/3GS and you should experience better performance, but will have similar issues when you fall back to EDGE.


At least in and around Washington, DC and the suburbs, AT&T has been focusing on their 3G Network, I’ve noticed a lot better signal with 3G than their ever so ‘legacy’ GSM EDGE network. This may be due to them swapping frequencies at the cell sites for EDGE and 3G equipment. You may be alright when you move from your 1st gen to a 3G. Like I said at least for me, if I kick my 3G iPhone back into EDGE mode my signal is definitely worse.


When I was in Las Vegas a couple of weeks back, I saw no edge on the strip. Not once. My call performance was pretty crappy though. I haven’t seen much edge here in Houston for about two weeks.


What Rich wrote. The Howardforums ATT forums have been chatting about the re-provisioning of 850 to 3G from GSM/EDGE for about a year, and I’ve been seeing more 850-only 3G in rural Washington and Oregon since last July.

About the cities having problems – Chicago, NYC, Austin, SF, Portland, etc., etc., etc. – ATTWS has been “filling in” holes in 3G service with 850 3G since at least last July (I live in Portland and travel for work). These overlays have been fraught with problems, including software upgrades not going that smoothly – some of ATT’s techs have been candid about it with me. On the GSM/EDGE side of it, ATT ended most of its in-city roaming with T-Mo about the same time last year.

Call ATT and gripe – you pay their bills – and get them to dispatch a tech to check out what’s happening in your neighborhood. I did, and the call drops stopped and data throughput increased 3x on my data card – a hardware failure and software upgrade were addressed on the tower my devices talk to, and it’s been all good for 3 months now. Several hundred dollars of credits didn’t hurt either…


Kevin- I think AT&T just wants to make sure you country kids get the same consistent experience as us city guys.


I have a first generation iPhone which is now running on Verizon. The secret is the MIFi gadget that was just released by Verizon, made by Novatel. It works very well and the voice quality over Skype is just very clear. I will be trying this unit in Amador county. So far I have been testing this unit in the Sacramento area all the way to SF airport.


I have had terrible service in Houston and I’ve talked to several others who have experienced the same thing. It’s been a teensy bit stable in the last couple of weeks, but, by and large, I would witness anywhere from 1 to 2 dropped calls a day.

Over on Howard Forums, someone mentioned that the problem is simple: when 3g calls need to be handed over to 2g, the hand-off fails. Wonderful. I don’t know how true it is, but it’s very bad. :-(

I really like my Bold, though.


At least you get the “joy” of having a dropped call..I can barely make phone calls on my iPhone and most of my calls are being shoved directly into voicemail without even a ring. My friends and family think I’m avoiding them. It’s awful here in Detroit.


At&t is pretty awful in Chicago… not only does my phone never work, anyone who visits me from out of town has problems making or receiving calls.


I believe that ATT intentionally steals bandwidth from iPhone users. My friend has a 3G card for his MacBookPro, and it sizzles. The iPhone, on the other-hand, crawls relative to the MacBook Pro with the card.

I’ve also complained about the lack of decent service, dropped calls, and their customer service is abysmal bordering on non-existent.

No-one can fault Apple for making an initial agreement, but if Apple does this again, it’s time to bring a class-action anti-competitive lawsuit against Apple and ATT for intentionally limiting the availability of the iPhone.

Where I live, in Pennsylvania, Verizon has worlds better service. I want Verizon back, and I want my iPhone, dammit!!!!

Wayne Schulz

Noticing the same thing here – I have both iPhone and BB Bold on AT&T and dropped calls occur in about 1 in 5 connections that are over 5 minutes in length.

Not sure on data speeds – really hard to judge but the iPhone 3GS claimed 7.2 speed is a joke because I’m positive I’m not getting anywhere near 1.

Also nobody calls AT&T out on their BS excuse that they’re “considering” what tethered plans to offer? Come on now — that statement should be “we don’t have the bandwidth to offer tethering”


They ONLY stated that the 3Gs will be compatible with the soon to be released 7.2 3G network, which AT&T said will begin rolling out in select markets later this summer. And be aware, That is what the network is called, not what everyone will see in real world usage. With the faster network, you MAY see speeds ranging from 1.4 to 4 mbps.

But I do agree on the tethering issue is BS. But I think it should be “We’re considering how much money we can get out of iPhone users for 2 years.”

Ed Oswald

Kevin, it might be because we live VERY close to each other too! Reading here.. I’m guessing your over more Bucks County the way you described it. Hmm, so it seems that I’m not crazy.

Rick Huizinga

Shortly after the iPhone 3G was announced, I noticed that the performance of EDGE data on my 1st gen iPhone dramatically decreased to nearly unusable levels.


When AT&T boosted 3G they cut Edge signals. With their new upgrades speculation is that Edge AND existing 3G signals are being cut to save money to go towards 7.2. Which sounds about right and par for the course for AT&T. No wonder everyone hates them so much. When the 3G iPhone first came out I upgraded and had nothing but frustration with dropped calls. i sold it and used a Verizon phone. Then went back to the 3G after AT&T boosted 3G signals. I wonder if i am going to have to go through the same thing again. I’m seriously thinking of getting a Blackberry on T-Mobile since Verizon’s phone selection sucks.


i thought at&t was phasing out the 850mhz band which is used in the rural areas and going to the 1900mhz band (i am not sure though)?

i think they mentioned this awhile back.


I have noticed it here as well. Where I live outside Chattanooga, I get 3G because I live on the top of a ridge other parts of my subdivision are still stuck in 2003 ;)

Over the last month, I’ve noticed that when my iPhone “forgets” it can get 3G here and switches to Edge I have just a sliver of bar (instead of 2-3). However bar wise 3G service seems a touch lower as well: 4-5 bars of old are now 3-4 bars. I’m not sure if that changes is upgrade related as I’m always on wifi here so speed changes would be meaningless.


Where in Chattanooga? I’m in Ooltewah, off Hunter Rd, and am looking forward to my 3Gs arriving in just over a week. But I’m now concerned about the service at home.



As part of the 3G expansion, AT&T has been moving their 3G service to the 850Mhz frequency, and Edge up to 1900Mhz. Essentially, they’re swapping them.

850Mhz at a given power level has longer range and better penetration into buildings. So it’s entirely possible that your Edge phone is now using 1900Mhz, when it was on 850Mhz before, and you’re seeing the effect of the frequency swap – poower performance.


I am just biding my time for LTE and the Verizon Iphone, I have a G1 and a contract that will be up around the time that LTE starts its major rollout, so the timing should work out to my favor. On a side note the 1.5 update for Android has definitely made me happier on my decision to go with the G1, there was a point where I was regretting my decision to not go AT&T.


If I remember from some of your earlier posts, you don’t live far from me. I’ve been noticing exactly the same thing with my service. Especially in my house. Depending on where I am in there, it switches from 3G to EDGE, and that’s when I have problems.

I think it may be something to do with the 7.2Mbps upgrades. With all of this going on, plus the crippled iPhone and absurd pricing, I think I’m officially done with AT&T.

Nick Bostic

Sorry for being a little confused here, but you’re going to deal with the old *Apple crippled* (not AT&T crippled) iPhone and some slight network issues for a month just to jump ship when the fixed iPhone launches on an even faster network? The only crippling the 3G S has from AT&T is MMS and tethering and they said that’s going to be available by the end of the summer. It’s June now, end of Summer is August, so you’ve got maybe two months of “crippling”.


Every time I think of jumping ship from Verizon to GSM, I think of things like this.

You never hear stories like this about either of the major, US, CDMA carriers.

Nick Bostic

It’s time for you to hear a story, I guess.

I have an AT&T BlackBerry Bold, an AT&T BlackBerry Pearl, a Verizon BlackBerry Pearl and a Sprint Treo 700w in the Portland area. I frequently travel from the extreme outskirts of the greater Portland area. My AT&T phones consistently drop fewer calls than the Sprint and Verizon counterparts and the 3G speed and coverage on AT&T blows the CDMA carriers out of the water. I loathe the fact that work puts me on terrible CDMA carriers. Plus my GSM phones have at least 2x the battery life of their CDMA counterparts. It’s no wonder that GSM is the Global Standard.

However, I will agree with Kevin that since they’ve been doing their “upgrades”, service has been a little odd. Mostly just the occasional moment of silence on a call, but not an actual drop. I’ve been through a few network upgrades, so I know this is unfortunately normal.


Yes my old Sprint coverage *dropped* fewer calls however – I could make fewer calls as signal was too weak at both my brother’s house in Chattanooga & parents house in Knoxville
– Sprint also routinely would not inform me of voicemails until days later and sometimes not deliver them at all! (a problem that seemed to be getting worse not better)


Maybe they are taking away your bandwidth in the country and giving it to the city folks??

Really, I have a Pre as I have been on Sprint for 10 years, but I really like the iPhone and have tried it twice in the past 6 months (yes, TWICE!). But I have to make phone calls! I *thought* they were upgrading the network nation-wide, but I would wait and see how things go before jumping on a new 3GS later this month.

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