While the masses undoubtedly love their iPhones, the same cannot be said for AT&T, the iPhone’s exclusive carrier in the US. Ever since Apple’s exclusive partnership with AT&T was announced in 2007, many bemoaned the choice, arguing that AT&T’s cell coverage leaves much to be desired. Over the past 2 years, many have wondered why AT&T hasn’t done all it can to capitalize on its fleeting exclusivity contract with Apple. After all, what good are all those new iPhone subscribers if they eventually leave for a rival carrier due to shoddy service?
Improving carrier coverage, however, is a lot more involved than simply putting up new towers willy nilly.
Business Week explains:
Many of [AT&T’s] 60,000 cell towers need to be upgraded. That could cost billions of dollars, and AT&T has kept a lid on capital spending during the recession—though it has made spending shifts to accommodate skyrocketing iPhone traffic. Even if the funds were available now, the process could take years due to the hassle and time needed to win approval to erect new towers and to dig the ditches that hold fiber-optic lines capable of delivering data. And time is ticking.
To be fair, even the most optimistic observer couldn’t have predicted the unbelievable success of the iPhone, let alone the effect that 65,000 third party apps would have on AT&T’s bandwidth.
[The iPhone] gives [users] one-click access to a array of wireless services unimagined when the store opened a year ago. Donovan says it’s not uncommon for iPhone owners to check a stock 40 times a day. “Anytime a Do Not Walk sign flashes in Manhattan, people pop on their iPhones for that 30 seconds,” he says. Many of these services involve video, which chews up vastly more bandwidth than making a simple call or sending a text message.
Business Week has more on what AT&T is doing, and not doing, to improve network connectivity for iPhone users over here.