Apple and AT&T should share the blame for network issues

December 14, 2009

Apple and AT&T should share the blame for network issues This morning Randall Stross of the New York Times tried to shift the blame for the iPhone’s connectivity onto Apple’s shoulders. Here’s why it’s mostly AT&T’s fault and definitely still Apple’s problem.

Ever since the iPhone’s overnight success, AT&T has been complaining about the burden that smartphone users put on its struggling network. Stross’s claim that a recent study showed that download speeds on AT&T’s network are faster in many metropolitan areas than Verizon’s.

While I can’t argue with that data, the study wasn’t meant to explain iPhone users ire and misses the point in a few very important areas. The first of which is that if you don’t reside within the city limits of AT&T’s coverage areas, you likely don’t have 3G coverage at all.

Secondly,  download speed isn’t the real issue that most iPhone users complain about. The biggest problem with being an iPhone user actually comes from dropping important calls from family and work almost constantly.

In fact, iPhone owners in New York experience an average dropped call rate of 30 percent. That’s not going to be a good experience no matter how fast the network’s download speed.

Stross believes that Apple should borrow some engineers to help it, “make better use of the country’s fastest wireless network.” The problem is that he’s missing some important points about AT&T’s 3G network and the fact that the companies are, in theory, partners.

First off is the fact that AT&T’s 3G network uses a fairly customized version of 3G that makes switching devices back and forth from other GSM networks like T-Mobile a nightmare. The Radio Interface Layer (RIL) in the phone has to be customized to AT&T’s peculiar network settings.

So this means that if AT&T designed the iPhone directly based on the GSM standard, it’s going to have issues on AT&T. However, it’s AT&T’s job to work with its partners to iron out these kinds of issues before a phone launches, let alone before launching the third version of the phone.

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6 Responses to “Apple and AT&T should share the blame for network issues”

  1. Alan Smith:

    So Masserati and the roads department should share the blame for poor roads? Hmm, whom shall I sue first.

    Shill article for Microsoft or Verizon.

  2. mikhailovitch:

    Of course it’s Apple’s fault. They decided to go exclusively with AT&T in the first place. Incidentally, I’m in Australia, where iPhones on the various competing networks don’t exhibit the problems that happen in the States. You’d think that if several Australian carriers could get it right, AT&T could have sorted out its problems by now.

  3. Dave Jeyes:


    You obviously have no idea how the mobile industry works. Carriers work with device makers to help them interoperate with their network.


    AT&T is too busy pumping PR to fix much of anything.

  4. fahkinsupah:

    Ok here is my take on this…

    3 years ago I got my first cell phone. I signed up with Cingular, which was bought out by ATT a few months later. Cingular used to advertise that it had the fewest dropped calls, which was total BS. So this crap was going on before the iPhone was even released.

    Add any phone to a crappy network and bad stuff is going to happen.

  5. DavidB:

    Of course it is ATT’s fault, the iPhone doesn’t have these problems worldwide or the hubbub would be MUCH louder.

    So what to do about it? FakeSteve has an idea:

  6. DavidB:

    Ooops…FakeSteve’s idea is at:

    That said, DO read the other article. Great entertainment.

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