AT&T has finally admitted what iPhone users have known all along – the existing AT&T 3G network never delivers ‘more bars in more places’ as users were promised.
In fact, AT&T admitted that their push to use the 1900 MHz band in many areas was ‘shortsighted’ and that they are upgrading the network and using 850MHz spectrum to beef up its 3G wireless network. This should help alleviate dropped calls and slow network connections for Apple iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS users.
Last weekend, Apple sold over a million of their new iPhone 3GS phones. Exactly how many of those phones were activated on AT&T’s network in the U.S. isn’t yet known, but certainly they are likely to put additional strain on the carrier’s network.
AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel revealed today that the company is ready for the onslaught of new iPhone users. One of the things it has been doing to prepare is upgrading its network so that it can offer 3G wireless service using its 850MHz spectrum licenses. Previously, AT&T had been using spectrum in the 1900 MHz band to deliver 3G services – but those have become saturated. As AT&T sells more 3G devices, such as the iPhone, it has been cramming more users into an ever more crowded spectrum.
This could explain why some users have complained of dropped calls and slow data connections. The problem has been particularly acute in cities, such as New York, San Francisco and Austin, where there is a concentrated base of iPhone users and where the 1900MHz spectrum is predominant. Siegel says that upgrading equipment to allow AT&T to use its 850MHz spectrum for 3G services should help relieve some of the congestion issues. And because the 850MHz spectrum is at the low end of the frequency band, it is able to travel longer distances and penetrate walls more easily than signals on the 1900MHz band.
When asked about problems with dropped calls for iPhone 3G users a year ago, Siegel reported that the company was working to expand the portion of its 3G network running on the 1900MHz band. Back then he downplayed the need for adding 850MHz spectrum for 3G services saying that it “doesn’t mean you can’t get a good experience on 1900MHz.”
Evidently AT&T now has second thoughts. Speaking today, Siegel now thinks that adding 850MHz will make a big improvement: “The 850 band, when it’s turned on in individual markets, people notice a big difference.” AT&T is also planning yet another migration, this time to HSDPA technology, which may someday double download speeds on AT&T’s network.
Then again – we’ve heard those kind of things before.