AT&T's Wireless CEO, Ralph de la Vega, spoke this week at CTIA about the problems of mobile broadband scarcity. He mentioned that AT&T had seen a 5000% increase in mobile broadband usage over the past three years and was having trouble keeping up with demand. AT&T doesn't forecast any slowdown to that exploding increase in demand any time soon.
Could this be why New Yorkers are seeing an average of up to 30% of their iPhone calls dropped, according to one report?
His long term solution is more spectrum allocation for the carriers. But even if more spectrum were allocated today, it would take years to turn it on. There is a problem right now. There isn't enough bandwidth in certain areas of the country.
The reason for this, according to de la Vega, was that 40%of the bandwidth is being used by 3% of the users.
But all that data usage is not evenly spread across AT&T's wireless customer base, De la Vega says--far from it. He cited AT&T research showing that just 3 percent of AT&T's smartphone customers [read iPhone users] use 40 percent of all smartphone data, that they consume 13 times the data of "the average smartphone customer," yet represent less than 1 percent of AT&Ts total postpaid customer base.
We all know who these customers are. They are the iPhone users who spend all day watching videos, getting huge emails and browsing multimedia on the web. That'd be me.
They've jailbroken their phone so they can watch Slingbox and tether their laptops. Believe me, I know this person. You might know this person too.
De La Vega says that these users will have to be dealt with because they are "crowding out" the rest.
This sounds very much like he's laying the groundwork for putting a cap on iPhone downloads. That, or degrading their rank in packet prioritization so that less hungry users get the first shot at the bandwidth.
De La Vega also addressed the issue of tethering, saying that AT&T's network needs some serious work before they could roll it out. AT&T has promised tethering but hasn't given a difinitive timeline.
The real problem, which wasn't addressed, is that AT&T has been knowingly taking on very expensive, high data use iPhones and hasn't yet built out the network to satisfy the customers that are paying for it. Now they are too far behind to catch up.
They won't have the next generation 4G network for at least another year. The current 3G network gets worse every day and AT&T is running out of options. They are going to have to ration the Internet provisions, rather than see everyone suffer.
All the more reason for Apple to start selling iPhones on other carriers.
Below catch a short clip of de la Vega talking at CTIA.