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AT&T fails to deploy iPhone Tethering and 3G MicroCell in 2009

post #1 of 69
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Facing intense criticism of its mobile network coverage from a variety of sources, AT&T has both failed to deploy its iPhone tethering strategy and to successfully get its 3G MicroCell product into widespread distribution.

New tethering services would exacerbate AT&T's existing network capacity problems, but availability of the 3G MicroCell would help to solve localized service holes for the company. The product is still confined to limited testing in just a few cities, which perplexingly do not include the two markets that are so infamous in terms of poor service that AT&T's CEO has made apologetic remarks addressing them directly: New York City and San Francisco.

The company did not respond to requests for comment on its tethering and 3G MicroCell plans, both of which were widely expected to be available by the end of this year.

Bad ink over bad links

AT&T was hit hard during the holiday season by an ad campaign from Verizon Wireless which depicted AT&T's data network as covering much less land area in the US compared to Verizon's service. The ads also targeted the iPhone specifically as being crippled by AT&T's network.

That campaign didn't appear to have much real impact on buyers, however, who continued to snap up iPhones in record numbers. Analysts have projected blowout quarterly sales of iPhones to reach close to 10 million units for the holiday period.

Still, iPhone users are keenly aware that despite AT&T's defensive response to Verizon, the company's mobile coverage is still suffering from poor or completely unavailable areas of service even within areas AT&T portrays as being well within its 3G service coverage area. Critics have frequently cited New York City and San Francisco in particular as troubled areas for AT&T, in part due to their urban density and topographic challenges, from mountains to tall buildings, and in part because of the high percentage of iPhone users trying to use the network.

Now or tether

The company's network problems help explain why AT&T failed to meet its goal of implementing an official tethering plan for the iPhone that supports the technical capabilities Apple built into the iPhone 3.0 software release this summer.

Tethering enables mobile subscribers to use their phone to provide a network uplink to their notebook computer over a USB or Bluetooth connection. iPhone users in other countries have been able to tether the iPhone for nearly six months now. AT&T supports tethering plans on other mobile devices it sells, but still hasn't activated the service for iPhone users, apparently because it knows it can't yet support any additional data demands.

The company similarly delayed the deployment of MMS features for domestic iPhone users until it could bolster its capacity to serve the millions of iPhone users it feared would overwhelm its network capacity. While MMS is limited to sending individual photos, videos and audio clips, tethering can involve large and sustained data transfers, making it a much larger issue for AT&T to address.

The company has also remained silent on any strategy to begin offering iPhone tethering services at a price high enough to limit its use to those willing to pay exorbitant fees. While it is reasonable to conclude that AT&T's network is unable to manage ubiquitous tethering demands from everyone at no extra cost, it's harder to understand why AT&T can sell tethering plans to users of other devices, but not to its iPhone customers.

Some users initially activated the latent tethering capabilities in the iPhone 3.0 software to use AT&T's network anyway. That resulted in Apple releasing a patch in an iPhone update that has since defeated the feature within AT&T's service area.

Alternatives to AT&T: frying pan to the fire

While Apple has consistently remained positive about its relationship with AT&T in public, most observers expect the company to be ready to escape from its exclusive contract as soon as its initial iPhone partnership with AT&T expires next summer, opening the iPhone to either CDMA carriers such as Verizon and Sprint with a new worldmode chipset, or expanding the iPhone's 3G UMTS capabilities to work on T-Mobile's non-standard 3G mobile frequencies. Either move would enable Apple to sell more iPhones domestically without running into the limitations of AT&T's service capacity in the US.

At the same time, other carriers have instituted artificial limitations of their own which would impact new iPhone users on their network. Verizon has begun charging an outrageous $350 early termination fee for smartphone users and recently began forcing its BlackBerry users to install and not remove an application link to Microsoft's Bing service. Verizon also has a long history of disabling Bluetooth and WiFi hardware features, disabling direct USB desktop sync, and forcing users to download or rent mobile software based on Qualcomm's BREW platform.

A primary reason why Apple and Verizon couldn't work out a deal for the original iPhone launch was because Verizon refused to allow Apple the control AT&T was willing to give the company. Since then, Apple's efforts to deliver a sophisticated and relatively expensive smartphone with rich desktop syncing, a dedicated and original software marketplace not managed or limited by the mobile provider, and an unlimited data plan has resulted in the rest of the industry scrambling to create the same thing, without much success.

Control issues

Verizon has found that finding a sophisticated phone set with broad appeal is difficult to do. Other hardware makers are finding that copying Apple's App Store success is also a tremendous challenge. While the less ambitious HTC, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson have backed Google's fledgeling Android, more confident leaders like Nokia and Samsung have announced plans to create their own rival platforms, including Nokia's Maemo Linux distribution and Samsung's new Bada effort.

Palm and RIM are also working to advance their own original smartphone platforms, resulting a dramatic departure from the history of desktop PCs, where nearly all major makers were content to run an IBM-compatible DOS within just a few years of the personal computer emerging as a mass market product.

No matter how much work hardware makers put into their own platforms however, they'll face significant push back from carriers who are tenaciously working to maintain their control over the handset market, particularly in the US. Unlike other countries where unlocked phones can be used on any provider, the US is currently split by mobile carrier's technology boundaries which have helped keep phone models exclusive to a provider.

As Apple formulates its post-AT&T strategy, it will have to consider how open other carriers are to the idea of supporting a smartphone that does not work with their lucrative ringtone, software rental and video clip services such as Verizon's VCast.
post #2 of 69
If I really wanted 3G access for my notebook, I'd get a free 3G card from my wireless provider. I'm sure the monthly fees (tethering versus 3G Card) will be the same.

Wasn't Apple supposed to support Win 7 in Bootcamp by EOY?
post #3 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by noexpectations View Post

If I really wanted 3G access for my notebook, I'd get a free 3G card from my wireless provider. I'm sure the monthly fees (tethering versus 3G Card) will be the same.

Wasn't Apple supposed to support Win 7 in Bootcamp by EOY?

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...7_support.html
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post #4 of 69
I know of some people would love to have the AT&T 3G MicroCell. I guess AT&T's determined either the product was a failure or there network couldn't handle it is widespread use of it. Just another example of AT&Ts' constant network failures.

How many AT&T customers haven't hand a dripped call at least once, due to AT&Ts poor overloaded?

AT&T sure love/hates iPhones.

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post #5 of 69
I have a really big issue with tethering. IMO, tethering should not be an extra fee. I understand that laptops would be using more of the bandwidth and downloading traffic would suffer, but to charge an extra monthly fee for tethering is down-right robbery. not to mention that if you already have a smartphone, you're already paying a monthly fee for internet usage. Build a better network already!
post #6 of 69
Quote:
While MMS is limited to sending individual photos, videos and audio clips

...and contacts.

Oh well, I would have failed to subscribe to these services anyway, so I guess it's all the same.\

Aren't USB and Bluetooth both too slow anyway for efficiently surfing the net on a laptop?
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post #7 of 69
I would hate to live in a city with poor reliability. Tethering? Don't need it. Microcell? Don't need it. My iPhone is rock solid with great data speeds.
post #8 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by antkm1 View Post

I have a really big issue with tethering. IMO, tethering should not be an extra fee.

Agreed! Why should I pay for someone else's usage? You use it, YOU pay for it. iPhones hog up enough bandwidth as it is.
post #9 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

I would hate to live in a city with poor reliability. Tethering? Don't need it. Microcell? Don't need it. My iPhone is rock solid with great data speeds.

Thankfully you acknowledge that not everyone shares your experience. I've read dozens of threads where people with good service can't believe anyone doesn't have good service in other markets...

Anyway - here in Charlotte we were supposed to get an upgrade by the end of the year along with five other cities. I've noticed no change. I'll concede it was never clear to me what exactly I could expect from the upgrade.
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post #10 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWatchfulOne View Post

Aren't USB and Bluetooth both too slow anyway for efficiently surfing the net on a laptop?

Bluetooth maybe. USB? Not at all.
post #11 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by noexpectations View Post

If I really wanted 3G access for my notebook, I'd get a free 3G card from my wireless provider. I'm sure the monthly fees (tethering versus 3G Card) will be the same.

My tethering is implemented and free as it should be (I pay for 6 GB of data a month, it shouldn't matter if I reroute some of that data to my laptop). We are approaching a world with more and more connected devices, I don't think being charged a monthly fee for each connected device will be feasible for very long.
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post #12 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by noexpectations View Post

If I really wanted 3G access for my notebook, I'd get a free 3G card from my wireless provider. I'm sure the monthly fees (tethering versus 3G Card) will be the same.

Wasn't Apple supposed to support Win 7 in Bootcamp by EOY?

They are not the same. With Verizonwireless, a Blackberry with tethering is less per month than a Blackberry (w/o tethering) plus an Aircard. That the card itself is free upfront is mostly irrelevant.
post #13 of 69
Well...maybe ATandT will deploy it at exactly midnight, or bring it out in a coupla months, saying 'it was released, but we didnt tell anyone...'
post #14 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by walshbj View Post

Anyway - here in Charlotte we were supposed to get an upgrade by the end of the year along with five other cities. I've noticed no change. I'll concede it was never clear to me what exactly I could expect from the upgrade.

I've noticed an upgrade here in Houston.

post #15 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

AT&T supports tethering plans on other mobile devices it sells, but still hasn't activated the service for iPhone users, apparently because it knows it can't yet support any additional data demands.

This makes no sense. If all of AT&T's customers started tethering with "other" mobile devices, wouldn't AT&T's network be just as strained? Does the iPhone somehow require more bandwidth to download the same content at the same speed as other devices?
post #16 of 69
Try as I might; I just don't get tethering in this day and age.
Tethering was a great feature when you had some crappy flip phone with data service, and you could plug that into your laptop for laptop internet action. But I fail to see the advantage now that you have a handheld computer in your hand; why bother? With all the VNC stuff available, and cloud storage, etc.
post #17 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Haggar View Post

This makes no sense. If all of AT&T's customers started tethering with "other" mobile devices, wouldn't AT&T's network be just as strained? Does the iPhone somehow require more bandwidth to download the same content at the same speed as other devices?

I don't think it's a matter of how much bandwidth an individual phone uses, it's more of how much bandwidth does a particular group use. I am quite sure that iPhone users are much more data hungry than those customers who use a Samsung Propel Pro.
post #18 of 69
I will never forgive Steve Jobs for sticking iPhone users with an amateur 3rd rate provider like ATT.
post #19 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwhite1000 View Post

I will never forgive Steve Jobs for sticking iPhone users with an amateur 3rd rate provider like ATT.

So I guess T-Mobile being last in suscribers amongst the big 4, smallest in 3G footprint and use of non-US standard 3G frequencies make them top tier. If they had the iPhone, would they be top tier knowing that they have the smallest 3G footprint and most likely translates into less capacity? My former company was nationwide and had to drop T-Mobile in several locations due to poor coverage and reliability. I guess that makes them a third tier vendor for those locations and the needs of my old company. This was rather recent.
post #20 of 69
Maybe ATT is not looking at it the right way.

In Sweden the solution i simple.
You pay for unlimited data. I have a contract that gives me 1GB unlimited SPEED. Full 3G. 10 bucks a month.
When I reach the datalimit, 1GB. They limit my speed to modem speed. I can still use 3G but it is slower.

But it's still OK and after the month is over, I get my speed up to 1GB data back. No extra charge, like I said, data is unlimited.

I reached that ceiling a few days ago, Apparently downloading movies from Usenet will do that.
But hey. 3G speeds here are good, I averaged 700Kbps from my iPhone tethered to my MBP.

My 0.02
post #21 of 69
In other news:

Quote:
The Montana Supreme Court says nothing in state law prevents patients from seeking physician-assisted suicide, paving the way for the procedure.


In case any of you poor AT&T iPhone users need to use it.

I don't think Montana even has AT&T coverage...
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post #22 of 69
is gil amelio at the helm of at&t?
post #23 of 69
I still say, Apple/AT&T made a top-level managerial blunder of historical MBA-school case-study proportions by not implementing UMA/GAN with the iPhone. And boy are they paying for it.
post #24 of 69
Wasnt expecting much of an improvement if anything at all and the San Fran area is not on the 7.2 list, but something is going on in the east bay.


post #25 of 69
For my occasional tethering needs, one word covers my needs nicely: Jailbreak
post #26 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwhite1000 View Post

I will never forgive Steve Jobs for sticking iPhone users with an amateur 3rd rate provider like ATT.

Really? It was Steve Jobs' fault that Verizon turned down the iphone?
post #27 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

Bluetooth maybe. USB? Not at all.

Since when did BT exceed 480mbps in bandwidth? FYI, when I tether with BT it sucks compared to USB.
post #28 of 69
I don't need tethering. So much free WiFi out there, it's ridiculous. If AT&T would have actually coughed it up last Summer, I might have considered it. Pass.
post #29 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Really? It was Steve Jobs' fault that Verizon turned down the iphone?


No, Verizon looked at the specs of the iPhone, saw it was data hog and decided to let AT&T choke on it.
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post #30 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Limegrntaln View Post

Wasnt expecting much of an improvement if anything at all and the San Fran area is not on the 7.2 list, but something is going on in the east bay.




I'd like to see the history of your results, not just one shot. That's just me though.......
post #31 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

I'd like to see the history of your results, not just one shot. That's just me though.......

The problem is 3G calls dropping more than "I can't get 3G data."
post #32 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by isaidso View Post

Try as I might; I just don't get tethering in this day and age.
Tethering was a great feature when you had some crappy flip phone with data service, and you could plug that into your laptop for laptop internet action. But I fail to see the advantage now that you have a handheld computer in your hand; why bother? With all the VNC stuff available, and cloud storage, etc.

Maybe YOU don't get it, but it doesn't mean that the rest of have to be left in the dark. I've had my iPhone 3G S since launch day, and it wasn't until this week that I finally decided to Jailbreak it to see what all the fuss is about.

First thing I did was to install "Poof" to get rid of those built-in apps that I either don't use or have found superior counterparts for on the App Store (Stocks, Compass, Weather, etc.). Next thing I did was install SBSettings to install control functionality that Apple should have given us from the start -- namely, the ability to QUICKLY access and turn on/off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G.

The final thing I did was enable tethering. Although I've only used it once just to test it out, I can see where it can be beneficial.

1) When I go to the doctor's office or have to wait on my car getting an oil change or whatever, I can still get work done on my MBP (I work from home, so if I run errands during the day which require me to wait around, it's nice to be able to continue my work on a full-size computer).

2) At the airport. I travel quite frequently, and the airports I frequent don't always have AT&T Wi-Fi access points, and those that do don't only allow it for my iPhone and not my MBP (from what I can gather).

3) Since I travel, I often stay at hotels that want to charge me $6 or $7 a day for Wi-Fi service -- F*** that!.

4) There are other scenarios I can think of like working from my MBP in the car while someone else is driving or some other stuff.

Bottom line is, I love my iPhone 3G S, but sometimes it's just better and more efficient to get work done on a larger computer -- especially if you don't have Wi-Fi access. Its not something that I can see myself using every day, but it's a nice feature nonetheless.
post #33 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mazda 3s View Post

Maybe YOU don't get it, but it doesn't mean that the rest of have to be left in the dark. I've had my iPhone 3G S since launch day, and it wasn't until this week that I finally decided to Jailbreak it to see what all the fuss is about.

First thing I did was to install "Poof" to get rid of those built-in apps that I either don't use or have found superior counterparts for on the App Store (Stocks, Compass, Weather, etc.). Next thing I did was install SBSetting to install control functionality that Apple should have given us from the start -- namely, the ability to QUICKLY access and turn on/off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G.

The final thing I did was enable tethering. Although I've only used it one now just to test it out, I can see where it can be beneficial.

1) When I go to the doctor's office or have to wait on my car getting an oil change or whatever, I can still get work done on my MBP (I work from home, so if I run errands during the day which require me to wait around, it's nice to be able to continue my work on a full-size computer).

2) At the airport. I travel quite frequently, and the airports I frequent don't always have AT&T Wi-Fi access points, and those that do don't only allow it for my iPhone and not my MBP (from what I can gather).

3) Since I travel, I often stay at hotels that want to charge me $6 or $7 a day for Wi-Fi service -- F*** that!.

4) There are other scenarios I can think of like working from my MBP in the car while someone else is driving or some other stuff.

Bottom line is, I love my iPhone 3G S, but sometimes it's just better and more efficient to get work done on a larger computer -- especially if you don't have Wi-Fi access. Its not something that I can see myself using every day, but it's a nice feature nonetheless.

I bet with the jail break you can do the other stuff I want in an iphone: the ability to download whatever and view it in a file browser. I find it dumb that the only way media can be played in safari if there was a "quicktime" tag to bring up the player.

Oh well, there is an Android for that. Wait, my old Moto Ming can do that. Wait, even my ancient palm life drive could.
post #34 of 69
3G is speedy and reliable in Hampton Roads, Virginia (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News). It seems to be better when I'm in more-populated areas, too, for some reason.

So I wonder, what exactly is there to strengthening a data network? Is it just a matter of building more towers? Fortifying towers with better/more equipment?

In other words, why is AT&T having so much trouble?
post #35 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by sprockkets View Post

Oh well, there is an Android for that. Wait, my old Moto Ming can do that. Wait, even my ancient palm life drive could.

Simply put, you want a device that meets all of your wants and needs. So do I. So does everyone. Never going to happen - not with Apple, not with Google, and not with any carrier.
post #36 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by antkm1 View Post

I have a really big issue with tethering. IMO, tethering should not be an extra fee. I understand that laptops would be using more of the bandwidth and downloading traffic would suffer, but to charge an extra monthly fee for tethering is down-right robbery. not to mention that if you already have a smartphone, you're already paying a monthly fee for internet usage. Build a better network already!

It's called 4 Telcos who coincidancely all have nearly the same plan structures within similarly priced ranges.

Gee. Oligopolies hard at work.

You won't get a serious change from any of them until the US stops subsidizing [tax cuts] these pricks.
post #37 of 69
AT&T IS A DINOSAUR! No micro-cell available in my or my Dad's areas...
*FAIL*

No tethering = no excuses
post #38 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

I don't think it's a matter of how much bandwidth an individual phone uses, it's more of how much bandwidth does a particular group use. I am quite sure that iPhone users are much more data hungry than those customers who use a Samsung Propel Pro.

Correct, iPhone users consume something like 5-10 times more bandwidth than other smartphone users. That's why AT&T is struggling. They had other smartphones on their network before the iPhone's debut (and particularly the iPhone 3G + App Store), but they had no idea that iPhone users would be bandwidth hogs.

As I've mentioned before, AT&T is scared sh*tless of its iPhone customers.

Even today, other smartphone users (Android, WinMo, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, etc.) use far less data than iPhone users.
post #39 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliphord View Post

3G is speedy and reliable in Hampton Roads, Virginia (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Newport News). It seems to be better when I'm in more-populated areas, too, for some reason.

So I wonder, what exactly is there to strengthening a data network? Is it just a matter of building more towers? Fortifying towers with better/more equipment?

In other words, why is AT&T having so much trouble?

If you believe AT&T, their update progress in certain metropolitan areas is slow because of the tedious permit approval process (which is either a municipal or county issue).

Also, AT&T is trying to deploy more 850Mhz cells which provide better signal strength (particularly in-building) and range in markets that previously had 1900Mhz coverage (which is usually adequate for less dense, flat areas without tall buildings, etc.).
post #40 of 69
Quote:
Originally Posted by cliphord View Post

Simply put, you want a device that meets all of your wants and needs. So do I. So does everyone. Never going to happen - not with Apple, not with Google, and not with any carrier.

IE jailbreaking perhaps makes it the perfect device. That and the Archos 5 IT does all I need, and so does perhaps the Nexus.
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