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AT&T-iPhone Problems May Signal Difficulties For Android

Verizon and T-Mobile may do well to sidestep network glitches if Google wants its phone to outsell Apple's, a wireless spectrum expert suggests.

W. David Gardner

August 29, 2008

2 Min Read

As anecdotal evidence piles up that AT&T carrier problems are plaguing the use of many iPhones, it's evident that the problems aren't likely to be solved by quick fixes and may well be a harbinger of coming carrier problems for T-Mobile when it launches its pacesetting Android phone later this year.

"AT&T has been rolling out its 3G network for four or five years now and if AT&T is having so many problems, it's likely that T-Mobile's network will also have problems," said wireless spectrum expert Joe Nordgaard in an interview Friday. Nordgaard is managing director of wireless consultancy Spectral Advantage.

While most iPhone users are delighted with their phones' ingenious design, function and reception, the complaints are piling up as many users report dropped connections and spontaneous online downgrades from 3G speeds to older EDGE speeds. Higher speed Wi-Fi connections appear to be working well as advertised.

A recent Wired.com survey of iPhone reception that included more than 1,600 U.S. iPhone users, found that many iPhone users were having problems with the AT&T carrier network, which exclusively serves iPhone users in the U.S. Independent sources have said that AT&T is moving to solve the problems by upgrading and enhancing its network.

T-Mobile, which like AT&T is based on UMTS/HSDPA network technology, has begun to roll out its advanced network that utilizes more than $4 billion of AWS spectrum it purchased in an FCC auction in 2006. Already behind its original timetable, T-Mobile has begun the deployment in New York City in advance of a wider deployment planned for many major U.S. cities. T-Mobile and HTC, the manufacturer of the phone, have said they expect to announce an Android handset by the end of the year.

Almost overlooked in all the hoopla surrounding the iPhone and the upcoming launch of T-Mobile's Android phone, has been the network and phones of Verizon Wireless, which has continued to dominate consumer satisfaction surveys. In recent days, Verizon has been reported to be negotiating with Google for features offered by the search colossus.

Verizon has been taking advantage of AT&T's network difficulties with the iPhone. "A phone is only as good as the network it's on," state Verizon newspaper ads printed this week.

"Verizon is incredibly well-positioned right now," said Nordgaard, who noted that the firm -- which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group -- picked up a wide swath of 700 MHz spectrum earlier this year in an FCC auction. That spectrum will help the future deployment of its networks.

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