AT&T Improves 3G Reception

The enhanced network quality may help the mobile operator reduce its churn rate after it loses exclusivity of Apple's popular iPhone.
AT&T is rolling out improvements to its 3G network, and customers are already reporting improvements with devices like the iPhone.

The second-largest wireless operator has faced complaints from a small, but vocal minority about the iPhone's 3G reception, particularly around large metropolitan areas like San Francisco and New York. The service has reportedly been so bad that prominent members of the tech press have publicly "broken up" with Apple's touch-screen smartphone.

The company announced in May it would be boosting its 3G network by using its 850 MHz band to increase capacity in places like San Francisco. An AT&T representative said the upgrade is currently underway, and subscribers are already taking notice.

"Over the weekend I noticed something odd going on with my iPhone: It was working!" wrote TechCrunch's MG Siegler.

AT&T has long maintained that the quality of the network is reflected in the amount of customers who cancel service, and the company reported its lowest churn rate in history last quarter. But many customers, particularly iPhone customers, may find it difficult to switch because they are locked into a two-year contract with an early-termination fee. Improvements in service could help AT&T retain iPhone subscribers even after it loses exclusivity of Apple's popular smartphone.

The carrier also said it will invest up to $18 billion in 2009, including upgrading its mobile data network to High Speed Packet Access 7.2 technology. AT&T said this upgrade will help it handle the increasing number of smartphones and 3G data cards on its network, and the upgrade is expected to be completed by 2011.

Part of the growth in the smartphone market will be for enterprise use, and this can quickly bring up multiple questions about security and mobility policies. InformationWeek analyzed how businesses can lock down data when it's on the move, and the report can be downloaded here (registration required).