AT&T wants to set the record straight about its nationwide coverage, and has posted a note on its Website, offering some "key facts" about what it covers, and how.
AT&T has filed a suit against Verizon Wireless, alleging that Verizon is misleading customers about AT&T's coverage areas in its commercials. The "key facts" note comes a day after AT&T reportedly went back to court to request that Verizon be made to immediately stop airing a new series of holiday-timed ads - including one in which the iPhone arrives on the Island of Misfit Toys - which again show a map of AT&T's 3G network coverage.
"AT&T's wireless data coverage reaches 303 million people - or 97 percent of the U.S. population, where they live and work," the carrier begins, before going on to outline its three types of technology. It has 3G, which is says covers 233 million people and is the nation's fastest. It has EDGE, which covers 301 million people, or more than 96 percent of the population of the United States. And it has GPRS, which covers 303 million people, which AT&T says allows them to talk, text, e-mail and access basic Websites.
"With both 3G and EDGE coverage, customers can access the Internet, send e-mail, surf the Web, stream music, download videos, send photos, text, talk and more," writes AT&T. "The only difference - with some data applications, 3G is faster than EDGE."
For good measure, AT&T adds that it has "twice the number of smartphone customers than Verizon, our closest competitor." Among the reasons for this, it offers, is that it has the "most popular smartphones" - a strong argument, given that it's the exclusive carrier of the iPhone. AT&T also points to the App Store its customers have access to, that it has the "fastest 3G network in the nation" and that its customers, unlike Verizon's, can talk and e-mail at the same time. Or, at least the technological capability is there.
What AT&T appears to be proposing, then, is that consumers should look at its EDGE network, along with its 3G network, because while "3G is faster than EDGE," as it states, EDGE still offers coverage. Is that fair?
"That doesn't quite represent what it is," analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK. "The experience, when it's at EDGE speed, can be kind of painful. This morning I was praying for kilobytes - it was like, -I don't even need megabytes, just give me some kilobytes!'" Kay laughed, explaining that his office is located in a "geologically unfortunate position" at the bottom of a valley.
The bottom line, Kay says, is that the iPhone has been a blessing and a curse - it's incredibly popular, but it's bogging down AT&T's network. "They just need to say something. They're building out their network as quickly as they can, but they need to say something to people about what's going on," Kay said. "They're kind of stuck, and they can only do so much."
In defense of EDGE, he offered, "An EDGE phone has some value and some power. I like that you can drop the 3G connectivity and just use EDGE. So, there are some battery-saving things you can do."