@ CTIA: AT&T’s CTO Defends Network Quality; ‘I Don’t Plan The Network Based On Blogs’

AT&T's CTO Jon Donovan

AT&T (NYSE: T) has received some of the toughest criticism when it comes to dropped calls and poor data connections, especially when it comes to Apple’s iPhone. AT&T’s CTO Jon Donovan spoke at CTIA today, refuting that the company is not doing all it can and that it is investing heavily in the network.

In 2008, he said data traffic growth was unprecedented, and that it jumped 5,000 percent over the past 12 quarters. “I know what you are thinking — iPhone — but you are only partially right. There’s new devices, such as e-readers, netbooks, and they are beginning to gain real traction.” Last year, he said AT&T invested more money than any other company in America, totaling $38 billion over the past two years, and today has more smartphone users than any other carrier.

To this end, Donovan became a bit defensive about all the criticism. “I know what you are thinking that I’m ignoring the criticisms. I read the blogs and I sometimes monitor Twitter…but I don’t plan the network based on blogs. We plan them based on the needs of customers, and no one knows more about the customer experience than AT&T.”

He emphasized that the world is much greater than the iPhone. He didn’t expand on this thought, but it sounds like if they were to improve the experience for iPhone users it would be at the cost of their other customers. “We have to manage our network so that all of our customers get a good experience. We have to manage the data-hungry devices on our network to ensure quality for others.”

When it comes to next-generation networks, AT&T is moving slower than Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). Donovan defended that decision, too. While Verizon aims to have an LTE network at least partially deployed in 2010, Donovan said testing will begin next year and LTE will be deployed in 2011. “Will we be left behind by the competitors who are in a rush? No. This is about producing a full and satisfying customer experience, not just fast speeds….It’s about having a wide set of devices, not just one or two. There’s no point in having a rich network about without devices.” He said the number of LTE devices he expects there to be next year is zero. In 2011, there will be 19. “We are going to hit the sweet spot of demand and device availability.”

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