ATandT, Apple Working to Improve iPhone Experience

AT&T has given Apple pointers on improving the iPhone's wireless network performance, reports the Wall Street Journal, and with competition expected from a rumored Verizon Wireless iPhone, the carrier's working harder than ever to improve its network and customers' morale.

A new report backs up earlier suggestions that Apple's iPhone, and not the AT&T network, is primarily to blame for the service issues that AT&T has been publicly criticized for, particularly in dense urban areas such as New York and San Francisco.
Still, that may not help AT&T's case, should rival Verizon Wireless begin offering an iPhone in 2011.
In efforts to fortify its network, improve service and better please customers, AT&T executives made several visits to Apple designers, helping them to better understand and streamline the way the iPhone interacts with AT&T's wireless network, the Wall Street Journal reported March 31.
AT&T CTO John Donovan told the Journal that, after several visits, "They're well past [wireless] networking 101, 201 or 301 [and are now] in a master's class."
With AT&T's help, Apple designers have reportedly learned how to minimize the load on the network created by performing simple tasks such as checking for text messages.
The pressure on AT&T to improve its offerings and keep customers happy has increased with the speculation that rival Verizon Wireless will roll out a CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)-based iPhone as soon as AT&T's U.S. exclusivity contract with Apple-which it has held since the iPhone's debut in 2007-expires.
While Verizon has 91.2 million customers it could potentially interest in an iPhone, AT&T's fear is more likely an exodus of its own customers to the Verizon network, once those two-year contracts run out.
"Given the network, I am sure [Verizon Wireless] will benefit from users switching to their network from AT&T," Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi told eWEEK.
In December, AT&T set up a 100-day plan to improve network performance in densely populated areas, the Journal reported, and in 2010 the carrier plans to spend $2 billion on extending its network. Executives also pointed out that they've been through a long learning curve with the iPhone, which no other network has even begun.
"AT&T does have years of experience with this level of data traffic, so that's good for them," analyst Roger Kay, with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK. "And certainly Verizon has plenty of data traffic, but dealing with the shape of iPhone traffic, and the mix of data types, there's probably a footprint specific to each device [that it'll have to adjust to]."
While something as simple as better call quality in certain areas could lead an AT&T customer to jump to Verizon, it's too early to predict a large-scale defection.
"It's all still in motion," Kay said, explaining that in the many months sure to pass before any Verizon iPhone arrival, AT&T will be hard at work ramping up its network.
"There's some time in the runoff for AT&T to make a bid back for its customers' approval," Kay said. "Which is good for the customers, because they care about us and want to please us, which they maybe didn't quite as much before there was some competition."