Att Wireless CEO Hints at 'managing' iPhone traffic

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by thabronx31, Oct 8, 2009.

  1. thabronx31 macrumors member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Bronx, NY
    :eek:What ya think:

    CTIA Conference, San Diego--AT&T Wireless CEO Ralph de la Vega bemoaned the disproportionate wireless bandwidth usage of iPhone users in a speech to wireless industry professionals here today, and hinted at an unpleasant way of dealing with the problem.

    De la Vega spent his first 11 slides talking about the virtues of the U.S. wireless industry versus the rest of the world, and of the quality and popularity of AT&T’s 3G wireless network and services in particular. He said such a vibrant market needed no additional regulation from the FCC.

    De la Vega talked about the enormous growth in demand for wireless broadband service in the US, and about the immediate need to free up more wireless spectrum to accommodate that growth.

    But spectrum is hard to come by these days, and, as De la Vega pointed out, even if new chunks of spectrum could be reallocated quickly, it still takes a few years to build the networks that use that spectrum.

    Meanwhile demand for mobile broadband rockets upward among wireless users. De la Vega cited research showing that demand for wireless broadband has grown 5,000 times in the last three years. That growth as roundly expected to accelerate in the coming years.

    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&T’s total postpaid customer base.

    Big problem—but AT&T management should have seen this coming a year ago. Or maybe they did, but getting Wall Street to buy into the idea of aggressive and costly network upgrades is like pulling teeth without anesthetic—lots of screaming.

    So in the absence of new spectrum and new, faster 4G networks, what does AT&T intend to do about the growing demand in the near term?

    De la Vega’s comments on this subject really caught my attention.

    Without the proper management of these networks, De la Vega said, regular data users will be “crowded out” by the small number of users [read iPhone users] who use massive amounts of data.

    “We have to manage the network to make sure that the few cannot crowd out the many,” De la Vega continued. He said the words “crowded out” at least five times in that part of his keynote address.

    But what exactly does De la Vega mean by “proper management”? That kind of talk reminds me of Comcast’s much-maligned strategy of throttling down the bandwidth allowance of users who routinely download large torrent files.

    In the face of exploding data service demand and scarce wireless spectrum, does AT&T intend to quietly begin rationing the data usage of bandwidth hogs like the iPhone? Will AT&T begin to quietly “manage” the duration and speed of my 3G connection based on how much data I’ve used in a given day, or on the type of content or services I’m using the bandwidth to access?

    Of course nobody outside AT&T knows exactly what the company has in mind. But if De la Vega's numbers are correct, AT&T will be forced to do something, and I got the impression that De la Vega was casually introducing the "rationing" concept to the wireless community today.

    AT&T's exclusive deal with Apple to sell the iPhone has made it a top-shelf wireless provider, but that blessing could become a curse if the AT&T 3G network can't keep up with the large bandwidth appetite of the popular device.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I think that many people believe that bandwidth is infinite and the fact is its not. ATT may not be the best at handling the huge increase to its network but its a problem that will affect the other carriers.

    I can see apple dropping the ATT exclusivity because of the single point of failure - ATT networks. I'm not saying they're going to verizon but rather, it makes business sense to spread the wealth and provide other avenues for people to buy the iPhone.

    Slightly off topic but I think the day is coming that broadband providers will be more proactive in managing internet traffic as well.
  3. kdarling macrumors demi-god


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    The FCC Chairman also came out with a statement that the USA needed more spectrum to allow for huge growth in wireless data usage.

    It was notable to hear that, right after coming out with new Net Neutrality rules that make the huge growth inevitable.

    Someone's getting ready to grab some frequencies, methinks.

    Like others, I fear that rationing and higher prices are coming. Wireless data used to be a nice quiet backwater, but now that the masses are getting smartphones, we're in for a ride. And somebody has pay for the ticket.
  4. macboy4 macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2009
    It's hard for me to stomach his discussion of the popularity of AT&T followed by his suggestion that the iPhone needs to be "throttled down".

    The iPhone is THE reason for AT&T's 3G popularity.
  5. xsecretfiles macrumors 6502

    Aug 1, 2008
    But you see, we are already paying higher amounts of $$$ than the rest of the WORLD, according to statistics.

    The problem is that at$t as other wireless industries are all about the profits. They are actually thinking on putting Bandwidth caps on the users, so that they can profit a bit more from us
  6. thabronx31 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Bronx, NY

    That is what I was thinking. Unbelievable
  7. electroshock macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    I know of one way to reduce the strain on AT&T's network: leave AT&T for other providers. :D

    He's going to have to wrap his head around this whole issue sooner or later, since with advent of more capable smartphones on the market or coming to the market, there's bound to be greater data usage -- iPhone or not. I also wonder if his hinting at managing traffic suggests they'd be looking to filter out stuff like VOIP to reduce competition, using the data network traffic load as an excuse?
  8. thabronx31 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 6, 2008
    Bronx, NY
    We pay alot more, for speeds thats, well, atrocious :eek:
  9. -aggie- macrumors P6


    Jun 19, 2009
    Where bunnies are welcome.
    If this happens, I'll be jumping on the Verizon bandwagon.
  10. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    What, and you think Verizon won't do the same?

    Bandwidth, especially on a wireless network, is not infinite and something does need to be done. There are really no good solutions, but if someone who is constantly using data on his phone gets throttled back a little bit so a casual data user can use it, I really don't see what the big deal is. This isn't like a cable or DSL connection where you're paying to get a guaranteed minimum speed. Everyone pays the same price to get onto the wireless network with no minimum speed guarantee, so everyone should be able to get their fair share.
  11. deimos256 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 9, 2008
    Gimping our usage is going to do nothing but further sour AT&T's already below average public opinion. I for one will leave them if this happens, not for the sake of making a statement, but simply because I want to get what I pay for. If I'm paying for unlimited data then I want unlimited data, not some rationing measures.
  12. DeepIn2U macrumors 603


    May 30, 2002
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Looks like he's looking at IMEI throttling & limitation of bandwidth on the switch. I cannot recall the company or the product/service that T-Mobile USA used to prioritize bandwidth (GPRS/EDGE) on the HP iPaq 6320. But it was a SERIOUS enough mess, compounded by BestBuy's 3wk advance sale of the device, equaling users not getting ANY network data for 30days!!

    Horrible enough that I laughed when the PDA group in tier2 support had over 190+ calls in the phone queue (2000) and lots of angry customers.

    ^ If this is what AT&T is considering instead of using the tonnes of revenue and profits to build new towers and firmware upgrades to HSPA+ (21Mbps) then I'm sorry you ALL are getting ripped off. Economies of scale suggest that with a population 12x+ larger than Canada's (total wireless accounts using data), along with cheaper rates on tower rental locations (and MUCH more locations to setup towers), there is no reason why Rogers Wireless, Telus & Bell Mobility can all do this in less than 1yr time frame and AT&T cannot.

    Don't worry, late 2010 or July 2011 Verizon should have an LTE network in place, and iPhone LTE version will be available for them and AllTel, and many other providers.

    EDIT: pic of the iPaq I was talking about.
  13. j5045096 Guest

    Oct 27, 2007
    I don't have a problem with AT&T trying to limit bandwidth hogs...mainly because I'm not one of them. I use MAYBE a gig of data a month but I'd be really surprised if it was that--it's probably more like half that. I'm always checking e-mails and sending texts and using Safari but I never download songs over iTunes from my phone - mainly because I hate that it creates it's own "mobile purchases" playlist on iTunes that I have to change settings to remove. I don't watch YouTube videos on my phone either.

    So am I getting my money's worth out of my 30/ a month data plan? I think not! BUT I'm not just going to start trying either just to stick it to AT&T. I think AT&T should limit the bandwidth of people doing heavy downloading etc. -- not necessary cap the data usage but slow the speed down (just for them) if their phones are constantly tugging on the network - I doubt this is even possible though and I dont' even want to think of how many people who missed out on the class action MMS-suits would file one if AT&T did this, but yeah, it's clearly out of balance the way some people's habits affect the network while others who need to know that the network is not over taxed and can handle e-mail and basic communication and some web browsing.

    So I guess if you're freaking out about this, you're probably part of the go jump on to your tech-ignorant neighbor's open wi-fi network and let the rest of us enjoy some bandwidth too.
  14. thelatinist macrumors 603


    Aug 15, 2009
    Connecticut, USA
    Here's the thing, though; this is not just an AT&T problem. It's a real physical limit in the amount of data that can be transmitted over a given radio spectrum. We've only got a limited number of radio frequencies which are suitable for wireless data, not all of those are dedicated to wireless data, and improved efficiency in the use of current bandwidth really can't keep up with 5000-fold increases in usage. There is an upper limit to the amount of data that can be transmitted in a given area over AT&T's (or any other carrier's) allocated spectrum. Throw in the growth in streaming media and the advent of VOIP to the 3G network, and this limit may come sooner than we think.

    What De la Vega is talking about is a real problem, and sticking our heads in the sand won't solve it. AT&T will probably reach this limit sooner than other carriers because of the iPhone, but other companies will reach it, too. What are they to do then? They are going to have to decide how to allocate the bandwidth. And if 1% of users are using a significantly higher amount of bandwidth than the other 99%, who should they try to keep happy? Unfortunately, it makes perfect sense to make sure that when that 99% of minimal users want to get their email or check their stocks, their data goes through quickly. And that may mean slowing down my torrent download.

    I may not like it, but just think about it mathematically: if a company can use the same bandwidth to satisfy 25,000 customers simultaneously wanting to check their mail at 20 KB or my 500MB movie download, which should they prioritize? Which would you?
  15. electroshock macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    Apple contractual terms nonwithstanding, AT&T could otherwise make their iPhone data charges better reflect the true cost of carrying it. Otherwise, the iPhone is essentially serving as a loss leader product.
  16. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    I don't think it has much to do with costs, I'm sure the 30 bucks even the heaviest data users pay covers the actual cost of carrying their data across the network. The problem isn't a lack of towers or a poor backbone network, the problem is a lack of wireless spectrum, and charging more for data usage still won't allow AT&T to pull spectrum out of their ass. That's why the FCC needs to free up existing spectrum and allow it to be reused for wireless carriers. AT&T can't just put up a tower in a given area if there's not an available frequency it can use.
  17. j5045096 Guest

    Oct 27, 2007
    Has Verizon ever really even had their network pushed to the limit? I've been thinking about this for a while - hear me out. I had Verizon 2 years ago - one of those LG Chocolate Flip phones (8600 or something). I liked the phone but 1) I didn't have a data plan because it didn't have a browser or anything - WAP is a joke so I don't even know what I used Verizon 3G (EVDO) for, if anything? Voice on Verizon is not done on 3g like AT&T - it uses the 1xRTT network for that and EVDO (3G) is for data. BUT, you had half of Verizon's customers walking around with their 3G phones boasting about how they have 3G when neither calls or text messages were even being used on 3G. The only sure time I can think I used 3G was when I used it to download VZ Navigator...yeah, it seemed fast downloading 2 megabytes or whatever the file size was. Oh yeah and I bought a ringtone once - that downloaded fast too.

    Point is, Verizon's crippling UI which is on all the phone except for the Blackberries and Treos prevented you from really DOING anything on your phone anyway. And most people I know that have Blackberries - yeah, they're on them all the time checking e-mails or whatever but that's it. None I've known ever sit around downloading videos or pictures or doing Facebook or using iTunes least not like iPhone users do.

    SO, I had Verizon and couldn't complain much about them but they talk all big like their network could handle better than AT&T so I'd just like to see 5 million iPhones running on it and see how fast it remains.
  18. mgamber macrumors 6502a


    Jun 12, 2008
    The FCC freed up a ton of spectrum at their last auction and T-Mobile snapped up a lot of it. As usual, AT&T was a day late and a dollar short, preparing for the future like they always do. I give the iPhone and AT&T about nine more months before people start dropping it for service that's at least somewhat reliable. That's when they'll also discover that there are better phones with more features from more reliable and consistent companies who really do listen to their customers.
  19. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    That's got a lot to do with it, I'd like to see how well Verizon's network would handle all the iPhones.

    Plus, AT&T is GSM, so you can buy an unlocked dumbphone with a half decent browser (or get Opera mini), get the cheaper MediaNet plan and use data. Verizon's phones are too locked down to do that and you can't bring your own phone.

    Also, their boasting about how they have a wider 3G footprint is because the upgrade from CDMA to EvDO was a relatively easy upgrade that required little, if any, hardware changes at the tower, where as AT&T had to actually go out to every tower they converted to 3G and upgrade the hardware. Just wait until Verizon goes LTE, I don't think they'll be having 4G coverage in Bumf*** Montana for quite awhile.
  20. IBradMac macrumors 68000


    Jun 27, 2008

    How will they determine whos speed to throttle?

    There is no fair solution because of the 1-$30 data plan. :confused:
  21. wingsabr macrumors 6502


    Dec 13, 2008
    I use about 1GB a month and I wonder what they are considering throttling because right now there are times when I can't get a solid 3G connection and I live in a major metro area in Florida. If apple drops the exclusivity agreement than it can only be good in my opinion because it will allow for the iphone popularity to be spread around to many different service providers which should, in theory, lighten the load for all.

    I don't think for one minute that verizon, tmobile or whomever you choose to add to the mix could have held up the demand that the iPhone has caused so I don't really fault AT&T for that. I do however fault them for not doing more to keep the customers they do have and taking advantage of the market position that the iPhone has brought to them.

    My only question is why allow VoIP apps on a 3G network and then talk about possible "bandwidth management?" Sounds to me like they are opening up a pipe that is already full. Sounds like AT&T is talking out of both sides of the mouth that already has bitten off more than it can chew!:eek:
  22. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    Yep. It's clear most people don't 'get' that fact. (All the "I'll go to Verizon!" comments are proof of that.)

    The fact is, most Americans don't even have smartphones yet. Once we all have tablets and 3G laptops the usage will go up even more.

    Restricted wireless internet is inevitable if you're going to depend on purely celular signals.

    I think that fiber-optic wifi hotspot will eventually be the answer, but that's going to take a long time before there'll be enough of those.

    I suspect that in 5 years there will no longer be a such thing as "unlimited" data on ANY cell phone plan. (Or if it does exist, it will be much more expensive than it is now.)
  23. barkomatic macrumors 68040

    Aug 8, 2008
    I agree that the long term solution is to free up more bandwidth. The U.S. will start lagging in terms of productivity if our wireless technology is hampered. Frankly, this is an important enough issue that I believe the government should take a more active role in making sure our networks are up to date. I'm not saying having the government *take over* the networks--just providing the infrastructure boost.

    In the meantime, if AT&T introduced a minimal data plan at $10 that would just cover what I use for A-GPS and very light usage on my iPhone I might take it. I am not a heavy data user at all.

    I think a lot of people would *voluntarily* accept tiered data--as long as AT&T keeps the unlimited plan at the current price. How many threads are there on this forum filled with people who don't want the data plan at all? Tons.
  24. joeconvert macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2003
    Massive amounts of Data, eh?

    On my last bill I used around 150MB of data on my iPhone (when I am home and sometimes on the road, I use WiFi). My wife's iPhone usage was just under 100MB. I for one will cancel the damn thing if the data gets any slower.

    I recently left AT&T for Verizon with my data card. No real improvement there. I haven't traveled with it yet, but here in the Dallas area the signal is utter junk. Now I remember why I left Verizon in the first place back in Jan 07.

    There is no good answer.... all of the providers in this country just suck. They are profit machines, the only way to do that with the capital requirements to build and run these networks is to offer piss poor performance. I liked it when air cards were $79 and up a month, at least the service was usable.

    If the iPhones are really this bad, then they need to cap the $30 plan at 1GB and start charging the heavy users more.
  25. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    It's going to happen if some people abuses the network, no matter the carrier.

    I am looking at those people who abuse iPhone tethering. Yes many people use it, but most people don't abuse it.


    Verizon Mobile Broadband:

    $60/ month per 5GB transfer
    $40/ month per 250MB transfer
    Verizon: tomorrow's data plans, today!?

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