Everywhere you read about technology, the chief complaint about AT&T seems to be its dropped calls in big cities. Â And while that’s a very valid complaint and all, AT&T has a much bigger problem on their hands.
It’s their coverage map.
Ask any AT&T rep about their 3G coverage, and one who is well-versed in bull-shittery will quickly point out that AT&T’s 3G network reaches 75-80% of the US population. Â Wow, you think. Â That’s pretty reasonable.
Unfortunately, that’s just a really flattering interpretation of a pretty lousy 3G footprint. Â Much of the US is crammed into some super densely populated areas, so you can reach 75% of the US population without covering much land. Â And maybe if you live in a large city that is blanketed in AT&T 3G, it’s not a big deal to you that 3G isn’t available out of your bubble.
However, when you pay your inflated wireless bill, you’re paying for a nationwide wireless network. Â You’re paying for a promise that you can go out to these far out places and have some coverage. Â You’re paying for a promise that you can be traveling down a highway in a place you don’t know and call up a friend for directions because you’re lost.
But that’s not really something you can do with AT&T, because they just don’t put forth the effort.
I live in the Madison area, and I often travel to Iowa via 151, which is a four lane highway all the way into Iowa. Â If I made a phone call starting when I got on the highway and tried maintaining a call all the way into Iowa, my call will drop several times, because the towers are spaced too far apart.
But to AT&T, this is acceptable. Â After all, why put the money into an area that isn’t very densely populated? Â After all, it doesn’t give you much of a return, so why bother having it there for customers to use?
Again, it all comes back to the promise of a nationwide network. Â When you’re paying your bill, you’re not just paying for infrastructure in the area your billing address is. Â You are paying for a network to be there when you happen to be on this random road and you break down. Â You’re paying to have service to make calls when you’re staying at a friend’s house in some podunk town.
For sure, AT&T needs to address the issues in its big cities. Â And they can afford to do so, because they have a lot of subscribers per square mile. Â But they also need to start taking more rural areas seriously. Â Even EDGE coverage is acceptable here (though they could put up 3G towers and make a handsome profit selling internet service to people out in the country), but there needs to be some coverage. Â Verizon has AT&T beat by a long shot, and their network is 3G across the board. And if AT&T wants to keep customers like me, they’re going to have to put forth the infrastructure, or I’m leaving in 2012 when Verizon LTE iPhones are available.