3 Reasons the Att network won’t get better when users move to Verizon

Top of cellular telephone tower

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To follow-up on my post on whether or not to get the Verizon iPhone,  a few people suggested to me that they would be sticking with At&t and were excited/hopeful that the network quality would improve when users leave for Verizon.  Here are 3 reasons why I believe this not to be true:

1. One reason why the experience on At&t is so poor is due to coverage.  At&t simply doesn’t have towers or coverage in certain spots, astonishing but true in major metro areas like NY or SF.  Users leaving for Verizon won’t have any impact on this at all.

2. This is the most important reason.  At&t encourages the common misconception that their network difficulties are about bandwidth.  The common refrain is that iPhone users are consuming a ton of data, and the wireless towers and backhaul links can’t handle all of that traffic.  According to many sources though, this is not the case.  Articles from Business Insider and Ars Technica explain the details, but At&t’s problems are largely about signaling architecture.  This won’t change at all until At&t has a new 4G LTE network running.

3. At&t’s network has never been good, even when they had millions fewer iPhone users.  They simply don’t view network quality as a core differentiator.  Reducing the iPhone users on their network won’t change this. If anything, they’ll see it as a reason to cut back on network quality/expenditures.  Despite their [many] other faults, Verizon has positioned their network quality as their core differentiator and they are willing to invest and work to maintain this advantage.

As to whether or not Verizon’s network will get worse, there’s certainly a chance it will, but I wouldn’t see it as a guarantee either.  Aside from Verizon’s aforementioned commitment to their network and probably better-architected network/signaling, many carriers in both Europe and Asia support the iPhone and its data-hungry users quite well. There’s no reason to think that Verizon will be more like At&t and less like the majority.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news on this….

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6 responses to “3 Reasons the Att network won’t get better when users move to Verizon

  1. i like, but with #3, i don’t think this is the case exactly. part of it is that at&t migrated from tdma to gsm. this migration hasn’t been completed to the degree that verizon has developed their cdma. verizon has 20 years of building network infrastructure, with leases already in place for towers. at&t has about 8 years. that’s the biggest reason for different network quality. gaining new leases for new towers is more difficult than in the past because people don’t want them (see california for their laws regarding that).

    my belief is that verizon will have issues for a while once they fully migrate all cell sites to lte, unless phones support both, which is expensive, and not likely by most phones (new verizon iphone doesn’t)….

  2. @Keith There are definitely reasons why At&t’s network is behind Verizon’s, particularly in certain geography, but comments from their executives reveal their true thoughts on what they think is important and what isn’t. They have commented repeatedly on the fact that they think their network must be good enough since their churn is low.

    You should read the articles that I link to in #2, this is the real issue here.

    Re: support for both LTE and 3G, this will definitely be the case, it’s the plan for the phones they’ve announce. All network migrations happen this way, e.g. the iPhone still supporting 3G and Edge. For the foreseeable future, LTE will only be used for data.

  3. not all network migrations happen this way, as cdma is very different from gsm/lte. it’s very costly to build in a cdma and gsm chip, and to have a sim card. hence why most verizon phones are not world phones. qualcomm is the only one that manufactures these.

    when at&t moved to gsm from tdma, everyone needed to buy new phones (and those phones didn’t support tdma). they did this until they fazed out tdma. this is what verizon is going to have to do as well…

    it’s also very costly to maintain both networks, and as they invest in lte, their cdma service will likely suffer (and definitely not improve).

    cell phone leases are definitely a contributing factor to why at&t’s service is inferior to verizon. the execs at at&t are bumbling idiots and have no idea how to manage their deficiencies. see steve ballmer as another example…

  4. @keith I understand your point, but I think for the foreseeable future, companies that launch 4G networks will put 3G and 4G radios in their phones. It’s what Verizon is doing with their initial phones (see here: http://gigaom.com/mobile/how-verizon-lte-phones-could-offer-simultaneous-voice-and-data/) and it’s what Sprint does with their 4G phones. They won’t be able to cover the country fast enough to not do that. The reason the iPhone doesn’t have LTE yet is that it was too soon, Verizon has no phones on the network yet. Verizon already offers phones with CDMA and GSM chips in them (they call them “worldphones”). You’re right that it’s expensive to have multiple radios in a phone, that’s why the phones will be more expensive and the monthly charges will too.

    I don’t expect any of this to change the fact that Verizon’s network will continue to be superior.

  5. Great article! So will you switch over to Verizon?

  6. @gene Thanks! I will definitely eventually switch to Verizon but may try to hold out until June/July to see about what phone is next…. If I’m going to have to pay a termination penalty to At&t and get a new phone, I may wait to get the new new phone. But every time I make that decision, I get another dropped call. So we’ll see….

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