Relegating the iPhone to the Island of Misfit Toys in a new ad, Verizon Wireless attempts to return consumer attention to the issue call coverage. In the United Kingdom, more than a quarter of ADC survey respondents say their work has suffered due to poor reception.
While mobile network operators have aggressively competed for customers by
exclusively offering in-demand devices-such as the iPhone on the AT&T network and the Motorola Droid on
the Verizon Wireless network
-as well as by building catalogs of
downloadable applications and offering the newest operating systems, mobile
coverage is increasingly becoming a point of competitive leverage.
For example, Verizon
has an advertising campaign comparing its 3G coverage
areas with AT&T's, and AT&T has filed suit against Verizon Wireless claiming the
coverage maps in the ads are misleading.
Verizon nonetheless released a new ad
for the holidays, in which the iPhone
is welcomed to
the Island of Misfit
Toys-known to a certain generation as a potential
home for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While the iPhone can download applications
and browse the Web, the ad implies that a less-than-satisfactory 3G coverage
map makes it a perfect fit for the island.
"Before the iPhone came along and became this iconic device, driving
consumers to consider things such as operating systems, network coverage was
traditionally the most important thing to consumers, along with price, of
course," Ken Hyers, an analyst with Technology Business Research, told
A recent ADC survey of UK
businesses found that 60.8 percent of participants rely on their mobile phones
for their jobs, 38.5 percent use their mobile phone as their primary work phone
and 27.6 percent reported that their work has suffered due to poor reception.
Howard Wilcox, an analyst with Juniper Research,
discussed the survey with ADC,
which reported that the majority of mobile use now takes place indoors. Among
survey respondents, 22.3 percent said they have coverage problems at their
desks, 28.5 percent listed conference rooms as particularly problematic areas and
24.9 percent said basement-level spaces were problematic.
Wilcox wrote in a Juniper blog
that poor reception can also be an issue at
home, and he pointed out that AT&T's MicroCell
device that acts as a miniature cell tower for a
home or small business, boosting signal strength and offering 3G data speeds
and unlimited talk time-is designed to improve indoor coverage.
"At Juniper Research we see that the indoor coverage issue is going to
be a main driver for femtocells," Wilcox wrote on the blog.
While some consumers may be focused on devices and operating systems, TBR's
Hyers said one need only listen to the complaints from iPhone users on the
AT&T network to know that reception is still very much an issue.
"Call quality has improved to where it's not a major issue anymore, but
call coverage and dropped calls are still important issues for consumers,"
Hyers said. "Verizon's network coverage is certainly the strongest among
North American operators, so it makes sense for them to be leading with their
Hyers added, however, "While Verizon may
have an edge in some areas, AT&T (and other operators, too) have better
coverage elsewhere. So the current high-profile advertising campaigns between
the carriers are about manipulating consumers' perceptions. I still believe
that the best way to choose a cell phone plan that is best for you is to ask
your friends and neighbors, who live and work where you do, what they think
about their mobile phone service, and find the one that has the best coverage for
where you are."