AT&T to New York and San Francisco customers: Use less data

AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega had some bad news for those of us in the New York or San Francisco metro areas.  Not only did he acknowledge that AT&T customers in these cities were seeing poor service and all too frequent dropped calls (who knew?!), he said that the biggest data users in these cities would be forced to curtail their network usage.

OK that's a little drastic.  According to the WSJ, he said,  "Manhattan and San Francisco, particularly the city's financial district, are performing at levels below our standards," and according to the NY Times, "AT&T is considering ways to encourage customers to use less wireless data as its network struggles to keep up with demand".

Whatever.  The deal is this (and journalists in SF an NYC have known this for years, why is AT&T only acknowledging this now?):

AT&T, most likely because of the iPhone, can't keep up with demand for wireless data in these two cities.  Their grand scheme, after a few years of complaints, is to find a way to curtail the usage of their biggest "data hogs".  

Why have a witch hunt when you can just build some more towers or improve the towers that already exist?

I might be missing something - like there is no more spectrum to carry all of the different calls - but I feel like if that were the case, AT&T would have come out and said it. 

And, isn't a dense city exactly what a wireless carrier would desire when trying to reach customers for as little as possible?  You get the most customers in as tiny an area as possible which could be covered by the least amount of towers.  It isn't like the plains where you need to build a tower every few miles for thousands of square miles just to cover a thousand people.

Ralph de La Vega seems confident that these changes will work, but I wonder why, after three years of declining service, we should believe that these latest schemes will help AT&T catch up?  Instead, I expect more excuses, distant plans and blaming users from AT&T. 

I hope they prove me wrong

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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