Response to ATT 3G Problems (And Apple's Bizarre Behavior)

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by cobalts, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. cobalts macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    I posted this originally on the Apple forums, and they immediately took it down. (This is the 2nd time a post of mine was removed from the Apple forums. I had previously posted a heartfelt complaint and question about iTunes, received a response, thanked the person who was trying to help me, and stopped subscribing to the thread. A while later I was informed that my thread was taken down because it had turned into a rant, and suggested that I had framed my original posts in a way that made the rant more likely. Both times Apple has taken down my threads, I received a "make the most out of iTunes" and a "make the most out of your iPhone by getting apps" emails within minutes. Freaky.)

    Anyway, this is a serious question about Apple 3G network availability. I'm astonished that literally hundreds of man hours has gone into talking about 3G reception, comparing experiences, testing the iPhone 3G's antenna in Sweden (three times), etc. and both ATT and Apple barely acknowledge the issue. Here's my original post. The photo is from the Boston MBTA Subway system, just earlier today.


    I think it's become increasingly obvious that there's nothing wrong with the iPhone 3G's hardware, and that the problem lies with ATT's network. Like anyone else who has the iPhone 3G, I've just signed a 2 year service contract with ATT, in which I must have a 3G data plan for $30, that is actually $43.

    My interpretation of recent announcements from ATT is that their policy will be to not directly address the iPhone 3G users as a group, to offer excuses and rationalizations, to announce plans to work on their network at some unknown pace, to issue no timelines and to deny their ability to give timelines because of their inability to test and monitor their network accurately at all, and to give out service credits for those people who can consistently make a claim that ATT will accept regarding poor service and network drop-outs, leaving it to the individual customers to spend their time in order to not be charged for services that are not available more generally.

    My feeling is that this is not appropriate behavior for ATT with respect to the iPhone 3G users as a group. Their common-sense obligation to us in relation to 3G calls and data usage should be greater because we were in particular signing up for a 3G phone with 3G data access, and all of the relative benefits that affords, including higher bandwidth and the ability to use data and phone services simultaneously, not to mention basic phone connectivity where the network is available. These things are in the advertisements for the phone -- data speed is part of the marketing campaign -- and we were provided with one option (i.e., no choice) with respect to data connectivity. No argument including the idea that "you can just switch to EDGE and it will work," or "but they've doubled the EDGE speeds in the past couple months," or "they're working as fast as they can and can't do anything because they can't monitor the problem" are sufficient to address the fact that their 3G networ
    k cannot accommodate the people that they're selling contracts to for this phone.

    I'm thinking about ditching ATT, and hence the iPhone 3G, even at a significant cost. I can't personally justify paying money for services that are not consistently available on this scale.

    I am thinking about telling ATT that if they don't address the situation financially, that is, in substance, within let's say one month, I will terminate my contract because of this matter.

    I was wondering if others feel that this is a worthwhile decision, or a waste of time, or an over-reaction to the situation. This is not a rant, this is an important and unpleasant decision I am contemplating, and I'd appreciate any feedback.


    Attached Files:

  2. pavvento macrumors 6502

    Jun 3, 2007

    The fact that this problem seems to be worldwide indicates that it is not just a problem with ATT's 3G network, although it is by no means incredibly strong.

    I also strongly believe that Apple and AT&T have agreed not to say anything until they know exactly what the problem is. It's much better IMHO to say nothing, than to have every rep saying something entirely different. There's no reason to make up fake explanations. My hope is that when they do figure out what the problem is, they will tell us or even better, just fix it.

    The picture you took is an advertisement showing full coverage in Boston. Nowhere does it say full 3g coverage on Apple iPhone or anything like that. I've been to Boston a few times and never had a problem with reception. My BlackJack 2 had half-full 3g most of the time, and when it didn't I had full EDGE coverage.

    I for one think the problem is much bigger than AT&T's 3G coverage.
  3. StoneColdSober macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2008
    IMHO, it is an over-reaction. This problem is not just a problem with AT&T but almost every carrier that is offering the iPhone 3G as well as it there are rumors that other 3G phones are having issues (at least with AT&T). This is not meant to say it is Apple's problem (ie. a hardware problem) but rather to say that I believe the problems are with both Apple and the carriers.

    The phone has now been out for 48 days. I know a lot of people are having problems but not everyone, I personally have had no real issues (less than I have had with other 3G phones and with other carriers). If the problems were universal it would make solving them much easier for both Apple and the carriers but they are not.

    You are entitled to cancel your service and sell your iPhone. I would understand that if you did. My point is that if you really like the idea of the iPhone and you can't return it for a refund, hold out for the next update and see what happens. If things improve (note I didn't say get fixed) then you at least know progress is being made.
  4. ruinfx macrumors 6502a

    Feb 20, 2008

    its appears to be apples firmware
  5. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    First off, thanks everyone for their comments.

    My thinking is: Apple and ATT were the main collaborators in working out the software/hardware/networking details of the iPhone 3G. The reason there is a problem with the iPhone 3G when ATT is not the carrier is because they just didn't do a good job. If Apple was working to release this 3G phone in so many countries at the same time, they must have relied on one cellular carrier predominantly in figuring out how to put the iPhone 3G together, both hardware and software, in a highly confidential relationship. And, the reason there is a problem in the US is that ATT doesn't have the experience in managing a 3G network, tried to engage in an aggressive service roll out because of the impending release of the iPhone 3G, and apparently has no way of really determining whether someone is affected by a 3G network issue or some other issue. This is the only way that I can account for the facts that two US companies are being indirectly or directly accused of being inexperienced with 3G technologies, that the iPhone 3G is somehow causing noticeable problems in Europe and the States, and that many people have reportedly returned and replaced their iPhone 3G for network issues and those issues have still persisted.

    Regarding the "bug fixes" firmware update, I know they were trying a short term fix here. But, it seems to me that all it does is make many phones that did work now experience broken network connections. That is not a bug fix. That is a significant correction of a mistake that actually worsened performance for people who applied that "bug fix" and left those who did not apply the "bug fix" completely without those new problems. That's why on every iPhone forum, people want to know if they can roll back the firmware to its original version. Even giving Apple the benefit of the doubt and believing for a minute that the "bug fix," if universally applied, would resolve all network connectivity issues with the iPhone 3G, it should have been treated as an *emergency mandatory service recall* and not a "bug fix."

    IMO, there seem to be two groups of people. The first group has had 3G calling problems, and they still have those problems. Maybe they are the 2% of people affected by a known and possibly unrelated problem, who knows.

    The second group has had no significant problems until applying the "fix" that "lowers the requirements" of the iPhone -- meaning, reduces the load on an insufficient network. I'm in this second category, and I had no 3G data access for almost a week after the patch, and still experience very specific problems that all have to do with 3G connectivity:

    - failure to send a continuous or intermittent data stream required by the app or app crashes in formerly stable apps that specifically stream significant data content from the 3G connection: music streaming apps
    - network failures in the app that engages in rapid successive network communications: the email program, which cannot itself crash but which frequently stops working. This problem is reported very widely, and it seems that whenever it comes up, the network connection is dead for every app until you reset the antenna or perform some incantation over the phone.

    Prior to the update, I was in NYC for 2 days, and while I had never experienced any problems with my 3G connection in the Boston area (Somerville), I experienced constant problems in Manhattan. After the update, people are still reporting those problems in Manhattan. I would guess ATT does not have sufficient cell towers to handle the large density of network users in that area.

    Someone else posted on this sub-forum that ATT did not give him a service credit for faulty 3G connectivity because they don't do that, or something along those lines. I think that's BS. It's not right that both Apple and ATT can get all of our money because the two of them are both probably responsible and yet neither of them needs to claim responsibility.

    I'm willing to give them till the next software update, which is why in particular I mentioned that I would give ATT about a month. That is, if the next software update completely fixes the 3G connectivity problem (despite having no reason to really believe it), I really won't care at all. But, I'm not willing to reset and restore my iPhone or return it twice or anything like that after the next software patch. I'm not trying to suggest that they are legally liable in any way that I would benefit from, I just want a working 3G phone with reliable 3G networking. If I can keep the iPhone 3G, that's great. If I need to leave ATT, though, that's it for the iPhone 3G, since I can't move it over to T-Mobile. Or, if Apple does a huge recall and does the usual thing in that kind of fiasco, I would be very forgiving, because I really enjoy using the iPhone 3G.... when it's working at least.

    These people (Apple and ATT) are in direct competition with Android and T-Mobile, literally. Apple and Google are working on a source of revenue in mobile applications, and ATT and T-Mobile are competing over 3G unlimited data customers. That is where enormous amounts of money are going to flow in the next two years. ATT and T-Mobile are engaging in a ridiculously expensive expansion, all of which is justified by the expectation that there are now mobile services available that will draw customers in and get them to spend more money.

    Now, from my perspective, I've been watching this situation and affected by it at the same time that I've realized the tremendous change that is about to come. The extension of the existing internet economy to the mobile device, completely unattached to a computer or notebook, is something of great value and will certainly bring in a lot of cash. And, I believe that Apple and ATT are obfuscating the fact that they made very real mistakes affecting large numbers of customers by their direct and indirect actions and statements, because of the high stakes involved (the "billion dollar business" per Steve Jobs). Furthermore, I have every reason to believe that T-Mobile will have the experience to do a 3G roll-out, and the niceness to be nicer than ATT. And, I have every reason to believe that the Android OS is going to take off in a big way.

    As businesses, Apple and ATT have complete, 100% motivation in not speaking openly about a problem that is all over every forum that has to do with iPhones and major gadget blogs generally, as well as on hundreds of posts in their own support forums, especially since release, especially over the next two months, and especially if they still don't know if they can fix it at a particular time -- whether or not it is in fact the result of Apple's choice of a particular 3G networking hardware component, or more due to insufficient network resources, or insufficient planning from the outset, or whatnot.

    By the way, the gizmodo link that ruinfx posted above actually contains a comment from me, in which I link back to this forum topic. Hopefully we haven't disrupted the space-time continuum.

    I definitely appreciate people's comments, no matter what the sentiment. I've just been trying to figure out what exactly is going on along with many many people (some fraction of 3 million), and now that I think the problem is pretty straightforward, I feel the need to do something about it. So, is my current, more detailed argument sound and valid?

  6. StoneColdSober macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2008
    I am not quite sure how you come to the conclusion you have come too in regards to T-Mobile. They have been the slowest to roll out their 3G network of the 4 largest carriers and are even behind most of the small carriers. Just because they have rolled out 3G in Europe does not mean they have been successful nor will it translate into success in the US.

    What you are forgetting is that T-Mobile is using a completely different frequency for their 3G in the US and if anything this is likely to lead to more problems as there will be distinct differences between what is being used in Europe on the T-Mobile system and what is being used in the US.

    These delays are the number one reason I made the choice to move to AT&T and took my whole company with me. I chose not to go with Verizon or Sprint because their hardware limits options for international travel (ie. they are CDMA instead of GSM). T-Mobile was okay on customer service but I have had no issue with AT&T.
  7. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    Hi, thanks for responding. I hope you appreciate that I'm drawing on everything I've been reading on the internet, which is all by its nature hearsay. And I've read literally thousands of articles and posts on the iPhone 3G, most of which is very repetitive. I don't think I've read a single complaint about the networking performance on the iPhone 3G that I haven't seen replicated at least 3 times elsewhere.

    In brief, I think T-Mobile is smart and handled the U.S. market perfectly. They didn't pour resources into the older technology but instead worked on negotiating good rates for roaming charges for their customers, negotiated wifi at Starbucks by providing that service to Starbucks, and offering much lower rates with fewer hidden costs to those customers it had any hope of reaching with their very limited cellular network. They did establish a large network in the U.S. (how much did Starbucks expand over the past 8 years?), but not a cellular network. In the meantime, they have the experience to manage 3G systems: knowing how many towers are needed for a given population in transit across the entire European content, throwing calls and data from one tower to another, and so forth. They have had 3G since 2001.

    In the meantime, ATT has had 3G since 2004. They might be able to claim that they didn't expect to account for so many users with the success of the iPhone 3G, but one or two (just that number) of people who had 3G services with ATT prior to this year report that the service was terrible, reflected as a whole in ATTs terrible service record. Now, that is not much testimony for ATTs pre-iPhone 3G service, but there aren't that many people who could attest to using that service. The initial ATT roll out was very limited, which means that fewer people could benefit from the 3G services, not justifying a higher cost for the service. ATT has a terrible reputation. I was a Cingular customer and then became an ATT customer by default. They have good coverage in my area, because they absorbed all the Cingular towers, but I knew at the time that ATT had a terrible reputation. Besides, what kind of excuse is it that you don't have adequate coverage because of unexpected volume, when you are preparing with Apple to sell millions of plans within weeks of rolling out your 3G service? Also, ATT emerged by buying large numbers of existing towers using older technology. They are still managing large numbers of people who are not able to use or are not currently interested in 3G phones.

    I don't think differences in frequency will drastically diminish T-Mobile's ability to manage network resources effectively and continue to maintain very low rates for its customers, manageable roaming charges, fewer hidden expenses, more and better options of international calling and data, and friendlier customer service. It's their entire business strategy. I was kind of surprised T-Mobile decided to stick around the U.S. market after the Starbucks Hot Spots went to ATT. But, I completely forgot about their association with Google, and it appears that they are engaging in what I would call a "super-fast" roll out of 3G, according to the leaked schedule.

    My thought is, people are of course apprehensive about T-Mobile's coverage. But, if they are fully committing to the U.S. market, I think they'll do a good job. They will have been looking at this ATT / Apple iPhone 3G fiasco and taking note of what's happening. I think the iPhone 3G is great, but the value of the iPhone 3G is completely replicable by any other similar system of mobile device, fast connectivity, relatively open OS, and the centralized distribution of apps. Because we want those services now and don't know how the T-Mobile roll out will go, we're willing to stick with the iPhone 3G and ATT. That benefits Apple and ATT, who want to sell as many phones and 2-year plans as possible before T-mobile's 3G service is available in just a couple months.

    I wouldn't suggest that T-Mobile would be better than ATT or Verizon for a business. It all depends on your needs. But, I think that if T-Mobile is really going to make a move on the U.S. market, now is that time for them to pour it on. And with their partnership with Google in establishing Android, they are in a great position. Remember when T-Mobile said that they were going to open an app store for all of their handsets and smart phones? That's the Android app store. That's the store that will be on Android phones regardless of the cellular carrier, because a mobile OS "wants to have" just one app store (or two if one is highly controlled).

    So, I think I can trust T-Mobile. I think I can't trust ATT. I have sympathy for Apple, but I'm not a fool. $2400 of my dollars on the plan alone, plus all the money I spend on apps, and on mobile Amazon, (etc. etc.) is at stake.

    Likewise, T-Mobile makes good partnerships. Starbucks was exactly the right choice for that wifi service, and it was one of the few successful national wifi-services to exist. Now, T-Mobile is working with Google, and I find that the services that are easiest to use on the iPhone are all Google services, and I know that Android will be optimized for Google services.

    You know what I mean?
  8. StoneColdSober macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2008
    I was going to reply to many things but your wall of text is just overwhelming. The key point here is that you suffer from the delusion that T-Mobile has somehow planned how they have expanded and improved their services and their "upcoming" 3G rollout.

    The reality is that Deutch Telecom has been hesitant to spend money on the US market and has constantly delayed the 3G rollout because of this. There have been plans to rollout 3G in the market I am in for over a year. It was supposed to be up and running by August this year. As you are aware, it hasn't happened and as far as I am aware no date for the proposed rollout in my market is even available.

    I'm not trying to beat up on T-Mobile. I could really care less. But I am also a realist and understand that T-Mobile is far behind on the curve here and it is going to be difficult if not impossible for them to catch up. Their delays have cost them money and subscribers. Given the realities of the economy in the US right now, I think Deutch's resistance to investing in the US market is only going to increase, not get better.

    But that is just my humble opinion.
  9. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    I appreciate the information. I understand that if you've been watching the networks from a business perspective over the past couple years, things are different. Given what you told me, there's no way I'd trust T-Mobile to provide coverage when I need it.

    My point is, T-Mobile won't promise you something like unlimited 3G connectivity within their own coverage maps without delivering it or at least making compensation for faulty service when and where it should exist. I don't do a whole lot of traveling, I live in the metro Boston area, and when I do travel, it's usually to major cities like NYC and SF. As long as I can get 3G in major cities, unlike with ATT, I'd be happy.

    Post describing reasons for slow T-mobile 3G rollout:

    T-mobile's leaked 3G rollout schedule:

    Sadly, New England is put off until 2008.
  10. StoneColdSober macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2008
    Be honest with yourself. Every cellular provider out there over promises and under delivers. If you don't believe that you are deluding yourself. Likewise, every cellular provider has customers/former customers who complain about quality of service, coverage area and customer service. T-Mobile and AT&T are no exceptions.

    See, now you are just being a T-Mobile apologist and buying into their excuses. The AWS auction for the 1700 MHz band took place in the summer of 2006 with the results known by September, 2006. At the time of the auction it was announced it could take up to 6 years for these bands to be fully cleared and turned over to the auction winners.

    So, yes it is understandable that it may take time for T-Mobile to get 3G service on these bands but I find it baffling that T-Mobile waited for this auction and as a result is just beginning to roll out 3G service to markets when Verizon, AT&T and Sprint had 3G in most of the large markets and many medium and smaller markets 2 - 3 years ago.

    My point in saying this is that you seem to be operating under the assumption that Deutch Telecom has finally changed it's philosophy on how they are going to handle there T-Mobile holdings in the US. I just don't see it. All of the above suggests they are going to be just as slow as they have in the past at upgrading their networks and as my previous post said, by the time they finally get around to having most markets covered with 3G the other 3 large carriers will be rolling out 4G.

    Again, I say all of the above not trying to beat up on T-Mobile. My company and I used T-Mobile for 5 years. We didn't leave them because of bad service, but left them because as a company they had an attitude of complacency and a lack of concern for the wants and needs of their customers. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact Deutch Telecom has chosen to ignore and delay advancements in their largest single holding, T-Mobile USA.

    But too each their own. If you prefer T-Mobile and are willing to wait for their advancements believing, you have that right.
  11. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    T-Mobile had no reason to pour resources into the older technology. They were so late entering the US wireless market that they had the luxury of creating a GSM-only network from day one.

    AT&T was obligated to support its existing legacy analog customers as they converted their network to GSM.

    Now both networks are in the same position where they have to support legacy GSM/EDGE customers as they implement their UMTS/HSPA (3G) networks.

    Great point, but promises aside, it takes time to implement a network, and T-Mobile is years behind AT&T.

    They don't have any magical abilities that will allow them to light up a city with 3G and have it be perfect. It will be an on-going process that takes time.

    My bet is that AT&T will have it done before T-Mobile, so as displeased as I am about AT&T's 3G coverage in my area, my money stays with them.
  12. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    Thanks for the information. I don't think I'm a T-Mobile believer or anything. I had them in the past and switched because of their coverage in the particular area where I worked. I switched to Cingular, which did have good coverage, which was maintained until ATT purchased Cingular. ATT's old network continued to work out just as well as Cingular. But now that I'm on ATT's 3G network, it's a completely different story, and their behavior about it is obnoxious. T-Mobile was never great with basic coverage, but they were never obnoxious about it.

    Anyway, it wouldn't surprise me that a European company with minor holdings in the U.S. is in fact ridiculously slow in making decisions and spending money. So, I appreciate your comments. Because I live in New England and can't immediately switch to T-Mobile 3G anyway, I will have the opportunity to watch the Android phone release and hence the T-Mobile 3G roll out from a distance. Android will be on the blogs every 2 minutes by then.
  13. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008

    After thinking about it, I think so many people were streaming music on Pandora Radio over the 3G network that it started causing a lot of problems. At the very least, the Pandora Radio app was generating enormous buzz around the iPhone 3G, which got killed and then some because of the 3G connectivity issue. And, I can say that I was certainly streaming tons of music over the 3G network: 1.6GB worth in one month.

    Anyway, I'll cope. I hope these people pull things together over this phone, though, if they want any favorable coverage at all online.

    If you look at the pictures attached to iPhone 3G and ATT posts on Gizmodo or Engadget, they're starting to be associated with the Death Star. That can't be good.
  14. calvy macrumors 65816

    Sep 17, 2007
    I hate to nitpick here, but AT&T didn't buy Cingular. SBC bought AT&T and then bought Bell South. Cingular was a joint venture between Bell South and SBC until SBC bought both AT&T and Bell South, and then renamed the whole company AT&T.
  15. cobalts thread starter macrumors member

    May 15, 2008
    Haha, thanks. I knew it was complicated, but I wasn't really paying attention. From what I could tell, a big company with bad ratings ran away, but it was actually just in hiding, and came out again alien-style, just when everyone thought they were safe.
  16. Jayden0606 macrumors 6502

    Jul 28, 2008
    Bergen County, NJ
    I was going to come and a say the same.

    To the OP: Now with this said... nothing changed network wise. It was only a name change and ownership (100% vs. joint)
  17. Koolio27 macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2008
    Somerville, MA (Boston)
    I gotta say, as someone who lives in Boston, the 3G network has been very slow over the past week or so. Not 100% of the time but more so than the usual slowness during rush hour.

    This is very frustrating since we're all paying $30/mo for 3G - ugh.
  18. StoneColdSober macrumors 6502

    Jul 19, 2008
    As has been said by many before, you aren't paying $30/mo for 3G. You are paying $30/mo for a data plan as every other smartphone device other than the 1st gen iPhone has paid for at least a couple of years now.

    The 1st gen iPhone was an exception, not the rule and now the iPhone data pricing is in line with all the other smartphone devices that AT&T offers.

    I don't say this to suggest AT&T doesn't need to fix the problems I am just saying it because people have this misconception that they are being charged extra for 3G and they are not.
  19. Koolio27 macrumors member

    Jan 28, 2008
    Somerville, MA (Boston)
    I made a broad statement that could be misinterpreted. What I was referring to was the poor data throughput with AT&T's 3G data network.

    To keep it short, as far as I know, iPhone 3G owners cannot opt-out of a data plan altogether nor can we choose to pay for only EDGE data service. So, for those of us who upgraded from a 1st gen iPhone, there is that feeling that we're paying more for a little less...or, at least, paying more for data service that is less consistent and less reliable.

    If we really wanted to get into details, we can argue that due to the way AT&T has configured their 3G and EDGE networks even EDGE data throughput has been negatively impacted by the new 3G data load on ATT's network.

    Anyways, I'm not trying to start an argument - just trying to explain a little more of where I'm coming from. At the end of the day, we all agree that ATT needs to increase the 3G data bandwidth/throughput ASAP! :)

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