Wireless Carriers Offer Scant Hope to Users

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-11-04

10 Reasons Why, ATandT, Verizon and All Wireless Carriers Disappoint

Verizon Wireless and AT&T are mired in a lawsuit over ads depicting the relatively poor 3G coverage AT&T has compared with Verizon Wireless. AT&T says it's an unfair depiction of its coverage. But the complaint has nothing to do with its coverage, per se, or anything Verizon Wireless says in the ads.  

Instead, AT&T doesn't want Verizon Wireless to color those areas where there isn't 3G coverage in white or black. The company contends that it does provide data in those areas, it's just slower than 3G. It believes that by coloring those areas white, viewers might believe that there isn't any data coverage.

Whether or not AT&T will win its suit against Verizon Wireless remains to be seen. But when it comes time to evaluate this situation, one thing is abundantly clear: The wireless service of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and every other carrier disappoints their customers. They fail to provide users with an experience that truly matches desire.

Here's why:

1. Coverage Is Subpar

Regardless of carrier, wireless coverage is not where it should be. I can't tell you how many times I've been traveling while on the phone, only to lose a signal in the middle of the conversation. Worst of all, I'm not alone. The vast majority of "coverage maps" don't provide real, actionable data on what kind of coverage to expect. There are a slew of "dead spots." Admittedly, coverage is getting better. But it's not even close to where it should be.

2. Draconian Plans

Is it really necessary for wireless carriers to charge around $175 whenever someone wants to get out of a contract? I don't think so. It's a great way for carriers to keep consumers in contracts, but it's also limiting the amount of options those same users have in the marketplace. On the enterprise side, companies sign multiyear deals with carriers. Those deals make it too difficult for companies to get out. That needs to stop. Having more options is better for everyone, including the carriers.

3. Data, Please

Although all the major carriers provide data services, it's 3G networking that most users covet. And as Verizon Wireless' ads have shown, AT&T is one of many carriers that aren't living up to customer desire. High-speed networking over 3G is a key selling point for many consumers and companies. More and more mobile phones are able to access the Web. Until the major carriers improve their 3G networks, users will be hoping for more.

4. Give Us Good Phones

Unfortunately, the vast majority of mobile devices in carrier stores just don't quite match expectations. Granted, that might be partly a vendor issue. But it's also a carrier problem. No matter where a user shops for a phone, he or she will find the same basic devices, featuring the same menu system, basic functionality and little else. The iPhone is an exception, not the norm. And that's only available from one carrier.

Wireless Carriers Offer Scant Hope to Users

5. Data Prices Are Outrageous

With the growth of netbooks making waves across the industry, being able to connect to the Web from anywhere is becoming increasingly important. But high-speed-networking costs are out of sight. If users want to be able to access the Web no matter where they are, they will need to pay dearly for that service. And all the carriers are to blame.

6. Little Competition

Although AT&T and Verizon Wireless are battling it out with each other right now, it's rather disappointing that they still seem to have little desire to compete on price. A quick glance at carrier calling plans shows that whether someone is considering Verizon Wireless, AT&T or Sprint, they will likely pay the same price for access to the network. Only T-Mobile seems intent on being a price leader.

7. The Rest of the World Is Ahead

In the United States, wireless carriers are lagging far behind many countries around the world. Several countries have full coverage, providing customers access to the cell network no matter where they are. In the United States, carriers are still trying to bring service to rural areas and other dead spots in and around more trafficked locations. That's unacceptable.

8. Users Suffer

Most wireless carriers are deeply concerned with services that enhance the usability of a mobile phone. For example, any voice over IP (VOIP) apps that use AT&T's 3G network have failed to gain entry to Apple's App Store. AT&T, like other carriers, is concerned that if VOIP apps make their way to mobile phones and access a connection over its 3G network, users will rely on them, rather than their minutes plan to place calls. Granted, carriers need to protect their business. But unfortunately, it has been to the detriment of its users. The same can be said for the way carriers have handled tethering. Users need to jump through hoops just to connect to the Web. It's a real shame.

9. Enterprises Aren't Any Better Off

Although consumers typically gripe the most when it comes to wireless carriers, the enterprise isn't faring much better. Like consumers, companies have a hard time getting out of plans. They also suffer from poor coverage and expensive data plans. Simply put, everyone is being affected by carriers.

10. The Future Isn't Very Bright

As we look ahead at what to expect from carriers over the next few years, it doesn't seem like much will change. Rollouts of better data networks are moving slowly. Coverage, while improving, is still a major question mark. And if history is any guide, the plans that have made the carriers so profitable probably won't change much going forward. It's sad. And it's disappointing.

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