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Why AT&T Should Dump the iPhone's Unlimited Data Plan 501

Posted by Soulskill
from the traffic-shaping-on-the-go dept.
Pickens writes "Farhad Manjoo has a provocative story at Slate asserting that while the iPhone has prompted millions of people to join AT&T, it has also hurt the company's image because all of those customers use their phones too much, and AT&T's network is getting crushed by the demand. The typical smartphone customer consumes about 40 to 80 megabytes of wireless capacity a month, while the typical iPhone customer uses 400 MB a month. As more people sign up, local cell towers get more congested, and your own phone performs worse. He says the problem is that a customer who uses 1 MB a month pays the same amount as someone who uses 1,000 MB, and the solution is tiered pricing. 'Of course, users would cry bloody murder at first,' writes Manjoo. 'I'd call on AT&T to create automatic tiers — everyone would start out on the $10/100 MB plan each month, and your price would go up automatically as your usage passes each 100 MB tier.' He says the key to implementing the policy is transparency, and that the iPhone should have an indicator like the battery bar that changes color as you pass each monthly tier. 'Some iPhone fans will argue that metered pricing would kill the magic of Apple's phone — that sense of liberation one feels at being able to access the Internet from anywhere, at any time. The trouble is, for many of us, AT&T's overcrowded network has already killed that sense, and now our usual dealings with Apple's phone are tinged with annoyance.'"
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Why AT&T Should Dump the iPhone's Unlimited Data Plan

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  • Invest (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:44PM (#29704605) Homepage Journal

    Build more towers. Increase capacity. Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure. Build it. Cut dividend payouts a little bit, and build the infrastructure up. Maybe cut executive and management pay a little bit. DUHH. And, while you're at it, maybe you can get that "last mile" built so that all Americans can get online. Tiered pricing isn't the solution. Demand is going to increase every year from now on. Get used to the idea that you need to keep adding to and improving the infrastructure. You can't take a snapshot at some arbitrary point, and say "We need this much more infrastructure, then we'll be on easy street." Invest your earnings back into the system, where it belongs - in the business.

    • Given that WiFi routers in urban areas with DSL backhaul can take a lot more data than 3G, maybe AT&T shouldnt consider their network as solely GSM-based.... and start getting iPhone and any other WiFi smartphone users to use wireless networks more..
      • by alen (225700)

        they already do

        you can use the wifi for free in any starbucks on the iphone. and at&T has more than 20,000 wifi access points around the US

        • by CdBee (742846)
          You say 20,000 routers as if it is a lot. In a nation of 300mil people, it is a tiny number.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by nxtw (866177)

          How much space will one wifi access point cover? A 100 ft radius? For 20,000 access points, that's only 22 square miles - less than a typical US township (36 square miles).

    • Re:Invest (Score:5, Insightful)

      by microcars (708223) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:00PM (#29704725) Homepage
      Invest in more infrastructure is exactly what AT&T won't do if they move to tiered pricing.
      As soon as extra money from the new fees rolls in their shareholders will start screaming that it belongs to them or the executives will just give themselves nice fat bonuses for implementing such a great new business model.

      I don't know a good solution to this problem except for some serious competition to AT&T where their only possible response is to beef up their infrastructure to match or beat the competitor.
      • Re:Invest (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:09PM (#29704805)

        ...extra money from the new fees rolls in

        That is the cruel truth of how ATT, and most carriers, operate. They won't lower the fees for light users, they will only add fees for heavy users. In fact, they would probably add a new fee to light users called "bandwidth usage monitoring recovery fee" to compensate themselves even more for the capability they already have. This fee will, of course, not be counted in the total fee for the remaining 23 months of a contract, just like they do with all the other bogus fees they try to mislabel as some generic 'government tax' like fee.

        Fee Fi Fo Fum, ATT can kiss my bum.

        • just like they do with all the other bogus fees they try to mislabel as some generic 'government tax' like fee

          oh i see. so at&t adds fake fees and deceptively labels them as government taxes? do you think that might get them in a bit of trouble? sheesh.

          • Re:Invest (Score:5, Informative)

            by Sponge Bath (413667) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:43PM (#29705079)

            so at&t adds fake fees and deceptively labels them as government taxes?

            You changed my wording, I said 'government tax' like fee. And yes, they do.

            The exact wording on a bill was "Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge".
            This is in addition to:
            * Federal Universal Service Charge
            * Texas Universal Service Charge

            Keep in mind that these are separate from the actual tax section of the bill and are not counted in the total contract monthly charge, they are added on top of that.

            do you think that might get them in a bit of trouble?

            No it does not.

            sheesh

            Indeed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SerpentMage (13390)

        The problem is not one of infrastructure only. There is a real limit.

        1) Screams from people who yell and scream that towers generates DNA errors. Thus there can only be so many towers with so many watts of power.

        2) Interference, and band splitting. There are only so many connections that can be served via a single tower. Exceed that and you have problems.

        3) Wifi is not the solution. Conferences now give free Wifi. Want to see how fast those connections come to a crawl?

        The reality is that wireless only has s

        • Re:Invest (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Runaway1956 (1322357) * on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:34PM (#29705485) Homepage Journal

          There may be limits. It's possible that in some built up inner city areas, the limits are being pushed. But, as a nation, we are NOWHERE NEAR the limit. Rural America isn't even covered. Many small towns aren't covered. Even some medium sized towns lack coverage. To use her cellphone, my wife has to stand out in the yard, because there is a water tower between the house, and the single cell tower that reaches our property. Just north of me, there is a dead spot that NO ONE covers.

          I am sympathetic to city user's complaints - but far to few people realize how many Americans have no coverage, or how many more Americans have shoddy, marginal coverage.

        • Re:Invest (Score:5, Insightful)

          by quarterbuck (1268694) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:37PM (#29705497)
          Look, bandwidth really cannot be the problem because otherwise Japan would already be hitting the limits. They already have tons more of people per square mile and use cellphone data networks much more than America. Same goes for India - Cities like Mumbai have a lot more people than NY and still the phone rates are about 10% of what it is in USA. Now I agree that labor is cheaper in India, but the cellphone towers cost the same as the US (and land rental rates are the same as NY in Mumbai).
          AT&T has a lot more room to give and if US would simply introduce more providers and increase competition, the prices would drop.
    • Re:Invest (Score:4, Funny)

      by RDW (41497) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:00PM (#29704731)

      'Build more towers. Increase capacity. Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure. Build it. Cut dividend payouts a little bit, and build the infrastructure up. Maybe cut executive and management pay a little bit.'

      Or (and call me crazy for such a ludicrous idea) end the purely greed-motivated exclusivity deal that dumps all the traffic on a single network in the first place. Imagine a bizarre alternative universe where Apple stuck to being a hardware & software vendor, without attempting to squeeze even more cash from the deal in network kickbacks every month, and the networks themselves knew their place as Dumb Pipes who just provided bandwidth. Pretty much how the rest of the internet works, come to think of it.

      • This is possible in every other country, but quad band 3g will not work on T-mobile because it uses a fifth band that nobody (not even T-Mobile outside the US) uses. Now the question remains to see whether all it takes is a firmware hack, some people think it might just be that.

    • by way2trivial (601132) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:18PM (#29704871) Homepage Journal

      source: http://www.companypay.com/executive/compensation/at-t-inc.asp?yr=2008 [companypay.com]
      Total compensation of the five active execs listed for 2007 $59,359,833.00

      Source: http://www.celltowerinfo.com/faq-4.htm [celltowerinfo.com]
      cost to build a tower $100,000 - $300,000
      so I'll take 200k as an average

      source: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=59359833%2F200000&aq=f&oq=&aqi= [google.com]
      number of towers that builds if they take NO PAY AT ALL- 296.799

      source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_states_of_america [wikipedia.org]
      surface area of the US 3,794,066 sq mi

      source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_site [wikipedia.org]
      range of a cell tower gsm 25miles otherwise 30-45 miles..

      lets say 40 miles-- be generous
      source http://www.onlineconversion.com/shape_area_circle.htm [onlineconversion.com]
      area of a circle using 45 as the radius= 6361 miles

      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=6361%2F3794066&aq=f&oq=&aqi= [google.com]
      6361 into the size of the USA .00167656546

      you've taken away 100% of their compensation, and added 1/10 of one percent of the towers needed to blanket the nation

      • by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:33PM (#29704989)

        You're ignoring population density- the vast vast majority of iphone users are urban. Blanket those 300ish towers in the op 20 metropolitan areas and your problem is 99% solved.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:37PM (#29705013)

        Your math is totally off.

        3,794,066 sq mi / (6361 sq mi / tower) = 596 towers
        596 towers * 200,000 $/tower = $119,200,000

        So the top five would have to go without pay for two years in order to theoretically blanket the US. Of course, since the coverage of a tower is roughly circular, and circles don't tesselate, you'd actually need a lot more than 600 towers. However, for the pay of the top five execs, you could build about 300 towers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mosherkl (1251628)

        Have you EVER done anything related to cell site design? 40 mile RADIUS? That wiki states the LIMIT as 25 miles for GSM. In case you've never driving along a highway, there are towers a lot closer than every 50 miles. Wonder what the reason for that is? Oh, maybe it's because the radius of each cell site ISN'T 25 miles.

        Let's try this. The signal being transmitted by the cell site, regardless of carrier or technology, travels at a certain frequency. When this signal hits any obstruction (yes, even air counts

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Buybye (1022567)
      Don't even let these pirates get away with tiered pricing. I don't have an iPhone but I travel all year in an RV. Verizon at one time had a unlimited data plan. Since I am a photographer I use the hell out of it. I have been told that Verizon doesn't sell that option anymore. So if I ever violate my current service I'm screwed. When I bought a new laptop a couple of months ago I had to load over 1GB of patches and while that is a different issue, I can only imagine what my "tiered" bill would be.
    • by nxtw (866177)

      Uncle Sam has doled out a lot of money over the last couple decades to build infrastructure.

      I'm unaware of the US government funding mobile Internet services - just voice (and even then, they only fund mobile voice services when they compete with high-cost rural landline voice services.)

      Indeed, networks pay the US government for the privilege to use the spectrum to offer their mobile communication services.

    • I pay ATT each month for a data plan. I do not use anywhere near what I pay for. Most of us do not, so we are subsidizing iPhone users.

      I have considered dumping the plan, but the few times a month I use it, I need it.

      I would be more than willing to sign up for a pay as you go plan, especially since I would likely be in the lowest usage tier. Let the heavy users pay the heavy freight.

      Pay as you go is far more fair than the socialist model used now, where the greedy get a free ride on the backs of others.
    • Re:Invest (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coaxial (28297) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:27PM (#29705825) Homepage

      Your solution of investing in the infrastructure is completely correct, but is a completely alien concept in modern business practices. Investment is a cost, and so by not investing you're cutting cost and maintaining profit.

      AT&T's behavior is endemic in American business today, and has been for god, 20 - 30 years? The US frequently comes in near the bottom, and all too often, dead last when its infrastructure is compared to the other industrialized nations. If you just compare the modernized coast of China, it's infrastructure is better than the United States. Our broadband is horribly slow. Our cell phone system is antiquated and undeveloped. Our electrical system is overstretched and prone to brownouts. Since everyone else can't be "ahead of the curve," we're left with the unescapable conclusion, that we're behind it. We're way behind it when emerging economies are on par with us.

      It's not just infrastructure. The auto makers are in collapse (with the notable exception of Ford) not only due to crushing healthcare costs due to retirees, but also because the lack of will to adapt to new trends and technologies. It's embarrassing that after getting their lunch ate by the Japanese back in the 70s when Detroit was turning out crap (in all fairness, American cars today very well made, and can compete in quality with anyone), that they let it happen again by placing all their eggs in the SUV basket while not just ignoring, but actively fighting fuel efficiency standards and slow walking the development of hybrids and all-electrics. Guess who owns that market now?

      With electricity, we're told that our infrastructure doesn't suck, but yet a fucking squirrel can cut off 50 million people [blogspot.com]. Meanwhile we're told to deregulate to decrease costs, but instead we get market manipulation that actually increases costs. (It seems like we always forget why the regulation was put in place the first time, and then we have to repeated learn that companies will screw over the most people in worst possible way, thus harming all of us, all to increase profits.) Then when we do say that we're going to invest in a new electrical infrastructure, and do develop new technologies, we don't. The US is already lagging the world in green technology development. [nextgov.com]

      We make nothing here, except except "exotic financial instruments," and we know how well those work. Yet, people wonder why this is is the second jobless "recovery" in a row. Real unemployment is at 17%, but hey, the Dow Jones Industrials have been on a steady rise since March, so everything is cool. Wages are down, unless you're to top 1%. The Chicago Fed reported that the US has the most unequal wealth distribution of any OCED country [blogs.com]. We have government that won't pass reform that 65% of the public wants [nytimes.com], because it would hurt the megacorp that bought politician.

      We've been asleep at the switch for too damn long, and now we're over the cliff.

      When Obama came in and was talking about reform, and infrastructure investment, and new technology investment, I thinking that it was about damn time. Yet, we're not getting it. Instead we get "too big to fail." None of these promises are playing out like he said, because the entrenched interests, and yet you can't vote for the Republicans, because they simply deny there's a problem.

      Goddamn we suck.

  • It's under application's control not users. So someone who has a single bad experience with a buggy app will dump AT&T and Apple forever. There are already horror stories abound with overseas data roaming.

    Just limit long-term data speed to whatever can be sustained and provide higher burst speed for basic web browsing.

  • And included text messages in "data"

    I'm sick of paying 35 dollars a month for "unlimited" data that I don't use, and 5 dollars for 200 (or 4 Kbs) of text messages.

    Most of the time I am on a wifi network; when I am not, I don't use much data anyway.

    Stick the 3 GB price point at 30 dollars, 2 at 20; 1 GB at 10, etc.

    Also, it should be further tiered based on what data connection you are using. Us original iPhone users got royally screwed when AT&T upped the rates because the 3g came out.

    But who am I kiddin

    • by sarahbau (692647)

      Yeah - I too am tired of paying for unlimited data that I don't use (there's no option on the data plan). I use about 30MB per month at most. The rest of the time, I'm on WiFi. Of course as you said, they probably wouldn't give a lower priced option. They'd just change the $30 plan to a limited amount, and make unlimited even more expensive.

    • Ensuring there is a reasonable limit on the amount of data you can download will ensure that those looking for a free lunch will limit their download. Heck, its not as if they can go elsewhere. People wanting to download more than say 20GB a month should be offered options, such as:
      - throttling
      - cut off until next billing cycle
      - paying extra
      Being able to choose your penalty should provide the network neutrality option, with an acceptance of your personal limits.

      A

  • by schnikies79 (788746) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:48PM (#29704631)

    I've had an iphone since June. Total data received is just a under 1gb, data sent is around 80mb.

  • by NoYob (1630681) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:48PM (#29704633)

    AT&T also scored lower than any other U.S. carrier in a recent customer-satisfaction survey—the first time it has ever claimed last place.

    That's not the iPhone users fault: that's AT&T fault.

    What's this horseshit of blaming the customer for shitting customer service, or service for that matter?!

    They sold a service and an amount of bandwidth and now that they can't deliver, they're blaming the customer.

    • by future assassin (639396) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:57PM (#29704701) Homepage
      Thats the standard that most Internet/hosting companies go by. Blame high customer usage for their inadequate infrastructure.
    • by slyn (1111419) <ozzietheowl@gmail.com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:24PM (#29704925)

      Seriously, this is the stupidest fucking story I've ever read. AT&T oversold their infrastructure, and now they have three choices:

      1: Do nothing, lose customers due to poor service. This is the worst idea, bad both long term and short term.
      2: Raise prices to drive down demand like this schmuck suggests, lose customers. This is a bad idea, you increase revenues short term maybe, but lower revenues in the long term.
      or
      3: Invest in more towers, bigger backends, thicker tubes, etc. "Lock in" customers not just with exclusive contracts with manufacturers but instead with a combination of exclusive contracts AND quality service. That would make a lot of happy customers, and though the initial investment would likely be many billions of dollars, happy customers are worth at least as much.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356)

        2: Raise prices to drive down demand like this schmuck suggests, lose customers.

        I'd say that depends on which customers you lose. It can make perfect sense to lighten the load.

    • I don't think he's blaming the iphone users, he's saying exactly what you just said: that they can't deliver what they promised.

      He said now instead of continuing to offer miserable service, they should just change their offer to something they actually can deliver. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Although they shouldn't rip off the people who already have plans.
  • by rshol (746340) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:50PM (#29704651)
    ATT offered users an unlimited data plan, no wait, they required one with an iPhone. Now the problems with ATT's network are the fault of those selfish users who took ATT's offer seriously. Give me a break. ATT is rolling in money from iPhone, they should use it to build out their network.
    • by monoqlith (610041)

      This is yet another case of a Slate writer writing about something that they clearly don't understand. [slashdot.org]

    • by Shawn Parr (712602) <parr@[ ]wnparr.com ['sha' in gap]> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:32PM (#29705463) Homepage Journal

      ATT is rolling in money from iPhone, they should use it to build out their network.

      That is an understatement. Nielson claimed that in April there were 6 million iPhones in the US, and some estimates say 2.4 million iPhone 3Gs units were sold in the US. Let's pretend there are 7 million iPhones due to upgrades, breakage, and other such events.

      If they all had 3G data plans, that would be $210 million per month, but there are still some 2G iPhones out there, so let's imagine $175 Million per month. That's a bit over $2 billion per year.

      Now the question is, how many smartphone users are there overall, and how many have iPhones? I have no way of knowing, but I'm pretty sure AT&T still sells plenty of non-iPhone smartphones, all with unlimited 3G data plans. Is it unreasonable to assume that AT&T has 20 million or more smartphone subscribers? That would be 1/3 of their entire subscriber numbers in 2007, so based on iPhone, Blackberry, and even WinMobile gains in the overall industry, I think it sounds like a reasonable guess.

      20 million smartphones, all with data plans. $600 million per month, or more than $7 billion per year. Just for smartphones, just on data plans. Those same customers also have minutes plans, SMS plans, and other profitable add ons.

      AT&T is claiming they will spend just shy of $18 billion in 2009 on upgrades. With more than a third of that cost being covered just by data plans, and the cellular industry making crazy profits on services like SMS I'm pretty sure they aren't exactly hurting for money. With SMS profits they will likely cover more than half of the upgrade cost they quote just from smartphone users. And just on data services.

      These numbers get to be pretty striking when you find that AT&T's smartphone users comprise quite a bit less than half of their subscriber base. And many of those other subscribers are also buying into high profit items like SMS plans. And even data services, GPS services, etc.

      Plus next year they will add a lot of subscribers from Centennial Wireless, and all the profits from those customers, some of which may upgrade to new phones with data plans as they live in areas where AT&T or Verizon service was weak and they couldn't get an iPhone, or a newer Blackberry.

      AT&T needs to step up, and build out the network they should have had originally. There is no way they didn't see this coming when planning on adding the iPhone, they simply chose to ride the short term profits and deal with the issue later. Well 'later' ended up sooner than they hoped, and now they are doing what they always planned on doing:

      • Playing catch up
      • Sending out feelers in the press and at conferences to see how well they can get away with metered or restricted service
      • Waiting for the above point to get people used enough to the idea that it will seem more 'natural' to them when it actually happens

      Of course a lot of my math above is based on guessed numbers, including the numbers that come from Nielson and AT&T themselves, after all they are likely guessing and passing it off as fact as well. However I'm pretty sure the dollar figures for what AT&T makes is more than my guesses not less.

  • If there was any love from Apple for its users, they would dump the AT&T exclusive deal and allow the iPhone to be sold and supported on all the other networks out there. But since they get such a sweet kickback from AT&T, they have zero incentive.

    Every iPhone user I talk to in the midwest says they would dump AT&T in a heartbeat for Verizon or US Cellular (if they would ever support SIM cards). Even more people who don't have an iPhone would get one if they didn't have to sign up with AT&T.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xannik (534808)
      Apple will be forced to drop that exclusivity deal, once Android starts kicking ass and taking names in 2010. With Sprint and Verizon both rolling out multiple Android phones Apple can't afford to stay tied to a crappy network.
    • a) T-Mobile is the only other major US GSM network

      b) CDMA networks carriers are only used in America (the continent), Japan and Korea, so it's not going to happen

      c) T-Mobile USA, for some unfathomable reason, uses a non-standard "fifth band" frequency for its 3G, which means while a quad-band HSDPA phone will work fine in Europe, it won't in the US unless you roam on AT&T's network. It might be a firmware hack, or not. Until then, we'll see.

      d) That said, it saddens me, slightly - I'm lucky, I guess, to

  • If you have a real smartphone, one with a wide variety of applications, one that everyone will WANT to use, you must have an unlimited data plan.

    Rather, what AT&T and Apple need to do is "WiFi tunnels": Have the iPhone associate with WiFi networks and encrypt traffic through a tunnel opportunistically to AT&T, so you can use and migrate between WiFi networks transparently, and between the WiFi and 3G, while having the phone act like its just continuously connected through a single network.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That /would/ be the Apple way, just like OS X on laptop. "Latch on opportunistically to any Wifi network in range, regardless of any authorization to be using it or not". Sounds like a plan - instead of you and AT&T figuring out a solution to the "problem", the rest of us can just subsidize it for you. Yay us!
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @01:56PM (#29704699)

    As a great man [allegedly] once said, 640kb should be enough for anyone.

    Modern users with their demands for eight, sixteen and thirty two megabyte options are just needlessly draining the world's silicon supply so they can listen to a few songs. Traditional phone users who don't have all of those cutesy multimedia options can get by with a fraction of that.

    Alternatively, time moves on. Just because 640kb was once enough for anyone, doing what they did with the limitations of that era, just because 40-80mb/month was once enough for anyone... That doesn't mean time doesn't move on and it doesn't mean it's appropriate to only support what once was the norm.

    AT&T have made a metric assload of money from people who bought the iPhone for, well, being an iPhone and not "some other" smartphone. AT&T's network sucks, just about everyone seems to gripe about it. They suck it up, when they'd never have gone with AT&T in the first place, because it does come with a more able phone, because it does come with unlimited data access, because it does come with an interface that makes using 5-10x as much bandwidth as before a practical reality.

    To play bait and switch, to get users to buy $600 phones (yes, I'll claim full price in a world where you either pay inflated monthly rates or a fee to cancel), to get them to sign up for those contracts, to get them to leave companies with more reliable service, all with the promise of an unlimited phone and then to say... yeah, we don't feel like paying to support that so, instead, surprise! we're capping the unlimited service we sold you and charging overage fees is obscene.

    If AT&T can't really roll out coverage to support iPhone users using an iPhone as an iPhone... perhaps the real answer is for Apple to say, "OK, you can't meet your end of the agreement - we'll sell it to Sprint/Verizon/whoever instead."

    AT&T entered in to an agreement with Apple to provide a network that supported Apple's product. AT&T entered into an agreement with the customers to provide a network to support that product in a certain way, too. If they'd like to acknowledge they can't honor that, I'm sure another company would like the opportunity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      The problem is, we have 4 main crappy phone companies. You have AT&T with good coverage, good phones (though sadly no Android yet), medium price, but their networks are just so congested. You have Sprint with decent-ish coverage, great speed, decent enough phones, but pretty high prices. You have Verizon with good coverage, medium price, decent speed but they neuter their phones to being the point of unusable (want proof? compare a generic phone like the Motorola Razr between the 4 cell networks and you
  • Consumers do not like tiered pricing, particularly those who purchase a smart phone for the purpose of fully using all it's fancy data consuming capabilities. The all you can eat plan, in this case, is a big selling point.
  • AT&T is selling something they cannot deliver.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IBBoard (1128019)

      A company is selling an "unlimited" plan and can't handle unlimited usage? How dare you suggest such a thing. That is blasphemy against Capitalism at its highest. No company would ever stoop to such lengths as offering more than they can handle in the hope that people won't use it. That just wouldn't be proper, even if it did increase profit in the short-term.

      Next thing I know you'll be telling me that all of those "unlimited" broadband connections aren't unlimited, and that my $2 per month "unlimited" host

  • Most AT&T customers do not go anywhere near 100MB of data and are perfectly willing to pay a flat $40 monthly fee. By cutting their bill by $30 you have just thrown away $30 of AT&T's profits. You're only hope would be to recover that money by raising the prices on the high bandwidth users by the same amount or more. If anything, by restricting their bandwidth usage you'd actually be encouraging a saving behavior that by definition results in lower profits for you. You're also cutting the profits o

  • They're going to need it as a competitive advantage. As more smart phones come out, they're going to have just as much impact on AT&T's network, and then everyone will be contributing to making the network slower.

    If they don't upgrade, someone like Verizon is going to see it as a competitive weakness, and capitalize on it once they get their smartphones/iPhones (when the exclusivity contract runs out). The iPhone is just a harbinger of what's to come with mobile devices.

    While I understand the benefits o

  • Rollover Data Plan? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ender77 (551980) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:05PM (#29704771)
    I rarely use my iphone internet because the speeds suck and I live in an edge network. I would like to see an alternative to the $30 unlimited plan and instead have something like $10 X amount of time/data plan that roll overs unused data to the next month like roll over minutes.
  • Inevitable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:08PM (#29704795)
    Really, how could AT&T not have seen this coming? Having attempted to surf the web on other phones, on an iPhone, while it is not perfect, it is at least functional. And guess what? More people will surf the web when they get an iPhone. When AT&T promoted that phone, more users that will tax their infrastructure. Unless someone at AT&T was praying that people would get the iPhone and not use one of the most useful features about it.
    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      It's functional on my 4 year old V980. My mum (who is not very good with phones or computers, and has yet to work out how to store numbers in the phone's address book) still manages to use the Internet on her Motorola phone. It's pretty bog standard since, ooh, about 2004. Of course more people will use a phone's Internet if they've paid through the nose for it, or they're offered an "unlimited" plan, but in general web use as been increasing on all phones.

      Which just makes this all the more embarrasing for

  • And ATT should upgrade their crap network, and all we need for that to happen is to have the media monopolies broken up and regulated.
    Until a time comes when ATT has to compete to stay alive, you will have crap plans, crap contracts, and, of course, a crap network.

    Leave it to an idiot like Manjoo to look for the worst solution...tiering.

  • Flawed Premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow7789 (1000101) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:11PM (#29704817)
    While the logic is sound, his basic premise is quite flawed. His article is based upon the idea that these "iPhone Users" are something so different and special from other phone users, that the world has never seen anything like them before (sounds like a bit of Apple propaganda to me). However, that is patently wrong. Just look at Japan. A very large percentage of the Japanese population uses their cell phones in ways that would put iPhone users to shame. That is not even mentioning that Japanese cities have much higher population densities than American cities, and you don't hear stories of how the Japanese phone network is falling apart. Between these two points, his conclusion that we will never be able to build enough network capacity to support iPhone users is clearly false.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cdrguru (88047)

      That is mostly because (a) the Japanese phone system is government supported rather than a competitor in a field of many companies, (b) Japan uses an entirely different type of phone system with lots and lots of very small cells, and (c) the traffic mix in Japan is very different - lots and lots of SMS, almost no voice traffic.

  • Would this bandwidth disaster have happened if they hadn't simply embezzled those billions of tax dollars of government handouts they were given to prevent this happening in the first place?

    I hope these scum go bankrupt after their network crashes and the iPhone cash cows jump ship. Same for every other ISP and telco in on the scam.

  • iPhone haters (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pointy_Hair (133077) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:13PM (#29704833)

    iPhone is just the most visible because it can be equipped with all sorts of apps that actually work as advertised most times, and people actually use them. If [fill-in-the-blank-other-carrier] supplied an equally useful product, their network would get hammered too.

    Personally, I would say the topic of this article hasn't really affected me and I travel a lot. My iPhone on AT&T works at least as good as my previous Blackberry 8830 and Treo before that did on Verizon. The aircard for my laptops consistently works better than the Verizon one did. The only time I've seen crappy data rates is usually at/near an airport where a zillion other people are connecting to the same tower as me. Not too surprising and not worth the effort to whine about.

    • iPhone lOvers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mdwh2 (535323) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:29PM (#29704959) Journal

      iPhone is just the most visible because

      It's the most visible because it's the only one that gets advertised by the media. I mean seriously - I used to joke about daily Iphone stories, but today we have, what, at least three on the front page? Where's the coverage for the big names like Nokia? Of course it's the most visible - but sales figures show a different story. And a good thing too, as I for one don't want the future of mobile computing to be a monopoly like we ended up with Microsoft, but worse one that's locked down to the extent that you can't even release an application without Apple approval.

      Personally I'd much rather to see a future that continues with multiple companies (of which Apple can be one), with choice, and most importantly, compatible standards so that I can release an application that Just Works on all phones, without needing me to recompile it especially for each make, or getting corporate approval from the companies. I don't see why this is so controversial - and why Slashdot of all places is supporting the Iphone all the way.

      Once upon a time, this was a place to support open and alternative solutions, not to give coverage and free advertising solely to large companies with locked down products!

      Note that all phones can run so called "apps". Running applications on phones has been common on all but the most basic phones for at least 5 years, and note that the market of Java smartphones is estimated at two billion.

      I'm not a hater. That's just another deceitful trick put out: that if someone uses another phone, disagrees that the Iphone is the best phone ever - or disputes claims that the Iphone is the best selling phone out there - they must be doing so out of an irrational hatred (e.g., the story about Japan hating Iphones).

      By all means let's have a sensible debate about which phone is the best, or argue about how many phones are sold by which company. But please, let's have a fair debate, with evidence - rather than resorting to the usual tactic of branding people "haters", or modding people down out of sight simply because you disagree with them, and can't respond to their criticisms.

      • Re:iPhone (Score:4, Informative)

        by diamondsw (685967) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @08:10PM (#29707237)

        It's the most visible because it's the only one that gets advertised by the media

        It's most visible because it was radically different from other platforms and single-handedly changed the market. Go ahead, show me 3D gaming on phones before the iPhone. For that matter, look at phone interfaces, capabilities, and internet usage on them before the iPhone. The iPhone raised the bar, and very little has caught up with it yet. State of the art used to be Windows Mobile 6 and PalmOS - yes, Palm OS. Windows Mobile has blown it ever since [networkworld.com], LiMo never went anywhere [current.com], and Google Android and Palm Pre very likely would not have been developed if the iPhone hadn't radically changed the market. It gets recognition for that, and it's well-deserved.

        sales figures show a different story

        Really? It's at 23% in the US, and 14% worldwide [businessinsider.com]. And it only came out two years ago, with its famously limited capabilities at the time.

        Personally I'd much rather to see a future that continues with multiple companies (of which Apple can be one), with choice, and most importantly, compatible standards so that I can release an application that Just Works on all phones

        Yeah, that worked out so well on Windows and the PC world. Multiple vendors never makes things Just Work - it's the antithesis of it. Protocol incompatibilities, inconsistent hardware support, no platform direction.

        Look at Apple. For example, they want to support something like OpenCL. They make sure their hardware has the proper GPU's, the OS supports it, GrandCentral is created, the compiler toolchain adds blocks, and oh yeah, they've been working on LLVM/Clang for years. NONE of that happens when you have a heterogeneous environment and no one is coordinated. Apple wants to get rid of legacy ports and bus systems - so they do it. In two years, Apple abandoned floppies, SCSI, ADB, serial, NuBus, etc. Here we are over ten years later and PC's STILL have PS/2 ports and serial ports, right next to USB 3.0. Such progress.

        Note that all phones can run so called "apps". Running applications on phones has been common on all but the most basic phones for at least 5 years, and note that the market of Java smartphones is estimated at two billion.

        I'm sorry - you can't possibly compare Java Midlets to iPhone applications. Nice that it has two-billion phones. I'd bet that a fraction of a percent of those users have ever cared that it's there, and those that have used it (like I used to on my PalmOS Treo - KMaps and Opera Mini) can easily see what crap it is. Ugly, slow, non-native, battery-hungry, low-performance - that's Java on a phone, and one of the reasons it's not on the iPhone. Ditto for Flash, really.

        Sadly, the only thing in your post that made any sense was that Apple should be more open. And it's "should", as in it would be nice. The market has shown that they certainly don't "need" to.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          In theory, Java Midlets are not so bad. The problem lies in the complexity of the ecosystem:
          1) Lots of J2ME phones means lots of incompatible implementations.
          2) The committees in charge of defining the technical specifications moves at a glacial pace.
          3) Provisionning and payment systems are outside of the scope of J2ME, so everyone had to build their own.
          4) The list goes on and on.

          J2ME failed but I'm not sure that it ever had a chance to succeed. But don't blame Java. Blackberry phones are 100% Java (except

      • Re:iPhone lOvers (Score:4, Insightful)

        by laird (2705) <lairdp@nOSPAm.gmail.com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @09:28PM (#29707809) Journal

        "It's the most visible because it's the only one that gets advertised by the media."

        No, the iPhone is the subject of this article because people use it very differently from other phones, even other smart phones. So while you are right that most phones can technically run apps, and use data, and browse the web, the reality is that people rarely use their other smart phones to do those things. The result is that in the real world iPhone users consume 10x as much bandwidth (on average) as other smartphone users.

        That being said, the iPhone should be viewed not as unique, but as a sign of where the industry is going. That is, if Palm and MS and Google and so on can make smartphones that people use as much as iPhones, then the users of those phones will have a similar network consumption model as iPhone users.

        The real issue isn't that iPhone customers use the network. The real issue is that the telco's sell expensive smartphones with expensive data plans to their customers, with web browsing, media downloads, video chat, etc., as features. So if the telcos accept the revenue form selling those products and services, the telco's need to be prepared to for them to use those services. It sure looks like AT&T underestimated usage, and is under capacity. So as usual when ISPs screw up capacity planning they are trying to blame their customers. Hopefully they will end up building out capacity to match demand. This is all very familiar - Comcast went through the same routine last year, first blaming users for using their network too much, then (gradually) rolling out DOCSIS 3.0, with the capacity to satisfy demand.

        As a number of telco network engineers have explained the situation, they are forced by competition to offer wireless services to customers at very low prices that don't cover the cost of providing those services. So rather than lose money building the capacity to deliver what they sell, their management has decided to run under-capacity.

        Since the iPhone is exclusive to AT&T (in the US) AT&T might be able to run under-capacity without losing too many customers. But as other smartphones become more usable, I believe that the same issue will hit all carriers, at which point competition will force them to increase capacity.

  • by monoqlith (610041) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:14PM (#29704845)

    The writer builds his entire argument on the idea that, like highways, building network capacity produces a phenomenon called "induced traffic". The more roads you build, the traffic they attract, producing an unending(but not really) cycle of expansion and congestion.

    Setting aside the obvious dissimilarities between network traffic and highway traffic, what he fails to mention is that there's an upper limit to induced because, as usual, there are a finite number of people and cars. If it really was the case that highways inevitably congested no matter how many you build, all of our highways - not just the ones outside of major metro areas during rush hour - would be chronically congested, at all times. But they aren't. This is because there is an upper limit on how much people drive no matter how many highways are available for them to use, and there is an upper limit on how many people drive to begin with.

    Similarly, the Internet would have grinded to a halt long ago if building out capacity wasn't at least a partial solution, if not a complete solution, to the problem. Most broadband users have unlimited access as well, and while some tax the network disproportionately, the Internet's infrastructure is able to support it.

    Why the author thinks the same principle doesn't apply to iPhones is beyond me. Yes, people will do more data-intensive things on a faster network. But there's an upper limit to how much data can be transferred by a single iPhone user in one month anyway, even if the user is transferring data 24/7, 7 days a week. if the network is built to handle the upper-limit of the most data-intensive users even in a hypothetical "induced traffic" scenario, this won't be a problem.

    The whole traffic analogy belongs in the "The Ted Stevens Dumptruck of Bad Analogies," and Slate should stop publishing articles about shit it doesn't know about.

  • ATT should charge more on overcrowded cell-sites and less on lightly loaded cell-sites. Also they should show the consumer what and where they are. This does two things, keeps sales up in areas where sales are low, and shows the users in the areas where insufficient network resources exist, how horrible the vendor is, or something. Oh well.

  • How many times must we repeat this lesson? EVERYTHING that is free gets overused, or pissed on. Even air. EVEN AIR. There are no exceptions. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    Don't make me say this again.

  • Increase capacity. Let's face it, this usage is only going to increase in the future. You can try limiting it now, but that is a short-term solution. Increase capacity and reap the benefits later.
  • AT&T should build more network capacity.

    Of course, they aren't getting any money for this increased capacity, but it would make lots of existing customers feel better. Happier. Happy customers mean ... well, happy customers, right? That would be a good thing.

    Of course, it might mean that AT&T Wireless just pulls the plug because their wireless costs far exceed their revenue. Sad, really sad. Not so happy customers. But it was great while it lasted.

    I guess the lesson is that all good things com

  • by fermion (181285) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:45PM (#29705099) Homepage Journal
    The idea of incremental plans is that there is some fixed costs, and then some additional costs as one uses more of the service. As it stands right now, all iPhone users buy a voice plan that covers a fixed number of minutes of calls. I suspect that many are like me and text or email quite a bit, so never use all the minutes. Texting plan, as has been pointed out,are pure profit and on the 3g phone are an additional expense. In addition to these expenses, there is the data plan.

    I don't know if iPhone users really cause anything to run slower, or if this is just a myth put out to shift blame. My iPhone runs plenty fast over the cell network. What I do now that iPhones users pay for the bandwidth.

    If a change is to made, then it needs to be made simpler. Realize that the iPhone may not be used as a phone, and therefore selling a voice plan as the basis may serve the customer. Or combine voice and data. One MB and one minute are perhaps the same thing. Sell 1000 units at the same cost as the basic package now. Get rid of charging for texting. I bet more people would text and not email if texting were cheaper.

  • by Daneurysm (732825) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:47PM (#29705127)
    Why not upgrade the infrastructure to support the usage they have been advertising and people have been using?

    Simply ridiculous.

    "People are using the phone in a manner consistent with how we told them they could use it! Upgrade the network to meet our promises? Wrong. Change the pricing structure. This problem is clearly the consumers fault."
  • Automatic Throttling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ironicsky (569792) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @02:50PM (#29705157) Journal

    Back in the old days of dialup my provider offered an unlimited plan. Here is how it worked.

    At the start of the month everyone started off with the same traffic priority. For the sake of argument, lets call that number 1.0
    As you used more bandwidth your traffic priority dropped proportionately to other users on the system.
    Those who used less bandwidth got higher priority when they did decide to use the system. Those who used more got bumped aside on the network.

    Why not do this here?

  • Ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:00PM (#29705235)

    As a Brit now living in the USA, it continually amazes me how Americans 'understand' or even even agree with corporations consistently crappy service (20 minutes on hold anyone?) even when they aren't getting what they clearly paid for up front.

    Yet more costs to customers? No! The blame lies with AT&T. The proper solution is for AT&T to spend some of their massive profits gained from iPhone sales and contracts on better infrastructure and provide what they already promised as a part of the contract.

  • 400 MB? Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iCEBaLM (34905) <icebalm@icebal[ ]om ['m.c' in gap]> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:04PM (#29705271)

    I've had an iphone 3G since launch, I stream radio every day, I browse, have push exchange email, use a ton of data apps, even used PC tethering in a pinch, and I have never gone over 300MB/mo. I have a 6 GB/mo plan, so there's no reason for me to skimp. I just simply cannot break 300MB/mo no matter how much I use it.

    How in the hell is everyone else going over 400MB/mo?

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:21PM (#29705389) Journal

    What so many people seem to be completely ignoring is the fact that AT&T is focused on the NEXT generation of networks... the "4G" if you will.

    I attended an AT&T sponsored "lunch and learn" session on "The future of wireless", several months back. (I got a free invite from our AT&T business sales rep. at my work. It included a free lunch at a nice hotel, and it's not often AT&T gives you ANYTHING free, so I figured "What the heck?" and went.)

    They made it abundantly clear at this session that AT&T sees "smartphones" as the future of their business. The speaker even made a point of emphasizing that they feel the idea of a "telephone" is outdated. The future they see is everyone carrying around pocket computers, essentially, which do happen to allow making/taking voice calls, but will be used just as much, if not more, for data-related purposes.

    They went on to say that they were pretty much getting behind the iPhone as *the* premiere device for this future, with the Blackberry being supported strongly as well, as the "alternate". They felt that a large display screen was an essential component to making all of this work, and right now, the iPhone is the only "smartphone" in widespread use with a big enough screen. The Blackberry, by contrast, they felt was a big player for other reasons. (Some people prefer having a real keyboard, if they're going to do a lot of data entry from their device, and the Blackberry has obvious advantages right now from corporate standpoints, where secure communications takes precedence over all else.)

    AT&T has some interest in expanding into selling software and services related to all of this. (They mentioned a partnership, for example, with a company that makes development software that allows someone to code an app once, and have it support many different smartphone devices, without the developer having to concern him/herself with details of the screen resolutions and input limitations of each specific device. They also wanted to move into the space of selling tools to companies, to enable the remote use of their internal databases from mobile devices.)

    Although it was more implied than stated, I came away with a pretty strong "hint" that AT&T really doesn't want to spend TOO much on improving their admittedly sub-standard 3G data network, because they feel the future is with migrating people to the next generation of data networks instead. They have goals of rolling it out by some time in 2011, at least for trial use and testing. If they make any moves like eliminating "unlimited" plans for iPhones to get more revenue, you can bet the extra profits WON'T improve your 3G performance. They'd simply funnel that into future R&D and rolling out of the new network (which won't even be compatible with the current crop of iPhones anyway). Any improvements you'd see would ONLY be from people leaving AT&T for other networks, or people reducing their usage of their iPhones to try to save money.

    Oh, and for what it's worth, another "key point" they made (in response to a question from someone in attendance) was that AT&T still feels the "bread and butter" of the Internet should/will reside on land based connections. At the end of the day, they don't think much of the idea of everything "going wireless" to the point where T1 circuits and such cease to exist. They view the "wireless cellular network" as never being more than a "bridge" back to a wired network someplace nearby. (I happen to largely agree with them here, and think that's probably "common sense". Yet others would say that just reflects AT&T's long-standing mentality and interest in copper wires and land-lines ... and that they're incapable of "thinking far enough outside the box". Some might envision high-speed wireless comprised of everything from satellite to wi-fi repeaters placed all over as a future that would take the whole Internet into the wireless realm....)

    • by dachshund (300733) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @06:10PM (#29706485)

      I used to work for AT&T back before the SBC merger, and I can assure you, this is exactly what they said about 3G. While all of the other carriers were rolling out fast CDMA-based networks with associated data networks, AT&T was in the dark ages with its proprietary TDMA network. They spent a lot of time excusing this by saying that they were building a new 3G network. This may or may not be the same 3G technology they're using now, but I stress that it took them at least five more years (plus the transition to a completely different non-3G network technology --- GSM) before any of it actually happened.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @03:53PM (#29705603)

    Seriously, if the iPhone is causing so many problems with AT&Ts congested network - Apple needs to start offering it through T-Mobile, Verizon, etc. Share the network pain, er, load.

    Of course I know a lot of iPhone users will then jump ship from AT&T - but the overall iPhone experience will improve (well, I won't assume that for Verizon customers, given what that company does to its phones' functionality), and I'd think that'd be Apple's primary goal. Plus the remaining AT&T iPhone customers will have a better experience.

  • by moxley (895517) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:10PM (#29705721)

    Seriously. Why should the customer (who is already paying out the ass already) have to suffer and pay more money?

    Why isn't the solution for AT&T to improve their network?

    (and honestly, it's not that bad, especially with a 3GS), it's only on occasion if you are in small extremely dense areas ....I live in Philly, and when the Phillies won the world series last year there was a parade. The entire city was on Broad st - that is one of the only times where there was a major problem - and that seemed to occur with other networks too....Other than that there have been times in small densely populated areas on Saturday nights where the web is slow or there are issues, but it's gotten a lot better.

    If AT&T did what the author is suggesting then I would expect most of the customers who have purchsed Iphones exactly BECAUSE you can go online anytime to feel screwed...and screwing people who make you so much money, especially people who are very comfortable using the social features of the web..that's a bad idea.

    Also, we're talking about mobile web usage, NOT people downloading binaires from newsgroups or torrents - the most demanding use is probably from people streaming music for pandora or streaming videos from youtube....Having a network support this and doing what AT&T needs to do to support the products they've sold and make SO much money off of monthly is the solution, it's the right solution, and it's the only real solution....So as I said, this guy can STFU.

  • by cybereal (621599) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:20PM (#29705781) Homepage

    Look, I'm all for consumer fairness. It would be nice to get better prices. But the fact is, whether you have a 5GB plan or an iPhone unspecified/unlimited plan, your averages are still well within the range of limits experienced by both parties. It hardly makes a difference.

    The article is basically making the argument that somehow iPhone users should be punished because they're actually using the service AT&T has been selling everyone for a long time. This is pretty asinine. The real issue here is entirely different and entirely AT&T's prerogative. Let me enlighten you:

    AT&T's "3G" network, which is actually 3.5G, HSPA... is on the tail end of its lifespan. The technology in all of these handsets depends on it, of course, but it's done. It's over. There is only one last stage of improvement to GSM tech and it's a stretch as it is. Why would AT&T want to invest in expansion of a dead infrastructure? They don't. They aren't going to any more than they have to. They will expand to the last stage of 3G in the largest markets just as they prepare to roll out the same LTE based networks that every other carrier is supporting.

    That said, there's no reason to think bandwidth consumption is the primary concern here. The primary concern is one of density. The number of users each relying on the same cell is too great. It's not a matter of how much data they are transferring on that cell so much as that there must be more cells, or cells must be able to handle more concurrent users. That's just a factor of the proliferation of cellular phones and devices. You can't blame the iPhone for this. It's a problem that would occur eventually anyway as the trend towards data enabled devices existed before anyone even knew about the iPhone. Maybe the iPhone accelerated it, but that is no reason to punish people who like a good user experience.

    Of course, there's another concern not addressed and that is the exact same concern that effects cable internet subscribers. Cable internet actually works in a very similar fashion to cellular internet. In the case of cable modems, customers share a download node that has a set maximum bandwidth with its uplink. You are sold rates like 12mbps but there is only a maximum of 60mbps at each node. So if more than 5 people all try to use 12mbps at once you won't get what is promised. However, because most people don't use nearly the maximum pretty much.... ever... the cable companies overprovision the network. They get away with it because the statistics generally match up. However, if you're unlucky enough to live in a neighborhood full of download happy geeks, you're going to hate your internet connection.

    The same issue exists in cell towers. A give GSM cell can handle a fixed maximum number of communication slots each functioning as a statically wide band of communication. When a device ramps up from basic voice to data, to higher speed data, it will consume more slots. Or it won't, if there are none available and it will just stay slow or not connect to data, or whatever. So basically if you have 1000 slots on a given tower, and full 7.2mbps hsdpa+ requires 12 of those slots, you can see that there's a fixed number of people who can possibly access the network at full speed. Add to this the already common problem of the actual backing internet connection experiencing the exact same kind of limitation and you can see that infrastructure is a problem of density, not of actual transfer totals.

    So, the lesson here is that more uplinks are needed so that uplinks are not as central a point of failure as they are today. What you'll earn is that cells are relatively evenly distributed across all markets but not all markets have an evenly distributed level of usage from consumers. People in metro areas will note the worst performance because there's simply too many people in one place. You'll note the epic failure of networks during large technical conventions with a 1000+ simultaneous attempts at liveblogging the latest

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rwwyatt (963545)

      A couple of points need to be clarified in your comment.

      • HSPA is still referred to as 3G. Specifically, it refers to the R6 version of the 3GPP standards.
      • HSPA+ is a technology being rolled out now (I believe Bell Mobility in Canada). There are devices that will be commercial very shortly that support 21Mbps in the forward link (down link).
      • AT&T has made the specific decision to not migrate to HSPA+ (R7) and will not offer more than 7.2 Mbps
  • by binarybum (468664) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:56PM (#29706027) Homepage

    I love this backwards idea, it will bring ATT one step closer to finally losing it's market dominance and allowing people to actually choose which company they use to carry their voice and data.

  • by beezly (197427) <[beezly] [at] [beezly.org.uk]> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:06PM (#29706095) Homepage

    From personal experience, I've seen none of these problems in the UK. Granted, our peak population density is about half that of big cities in the US (New York vs. London), but our national population density is an order of magnitude greater (1000 sq/mi (england) vs around 80 (USA) - or 650 sq/mi (UK) vs 80 (US)).

    Seems to me that AT&T's network is just a bit crap. We have a bit more experience of running GSM networks over here!

    Having said all that, O2 have had some spectacular cock ups on their data network recently, although not related to coverage/dropped calls.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:13PM (#29706155)

    There are 2 key factors being ignored here. The average user may well be using only 400 megabytes but the "average" user hasn't had his/her iPhone for very long and quite probably hasn't discovered all the possibilities yet. Someday, he/she will. He'll start syncing his files via Dropbox, or he'll set up a Pandora station and start listening to streaming audio over long car trips. He'll pick up new podcasts, and update them over the air. The longer you have your phone, the more bandwidth you'll use as you slowly learn to do more and more things with it, get more and more apps, and so forth.

    A large percentage of the so-called "heavy users" are merely early adopters, who've embraced smart phone computing to a higher degree. They aren't the norm now, but increasingly they will become it.

    Moreover, the average user lives where, exactly? Some cities have ubiquitous WiFi, others, as of yet, do not. Some cities are dense and have many access points, others are spread out and suburban.

    At the end of the day, tiered pricing would be a disaster. People would find their bill increasing 10 dollars every month and realistically, how long would they put up with that? I love my iPhone but I am absolutely not paying 200 dollars for data every month just because I go through about 2 gigs of data in that time frame -- nor, frankly, am I willing to cut back. I'll simply switch to another phone on another network that isn't heavily oversold and underserved.

  • by aceofspades1217 (1267996) <aceofspades1217.gmail@com> on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:20PM (#29706181) Homepage Journal

    Wow so people feel bad for AT&T that people are paying for an incredibly expensive plan and that its slowing down the network because even though their revenues are so high they refuse in infrastructure.

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