ATandT iPhone App Asks Customers Where It Hurts

AT&T is using the iPhone, a source of its ails, to help cure its coverage issues. With the free AT&T Mark the Spot app, customers can note where and when a problem occurred. AT&T will use the metrics to direct its network-building dollars.

The overwhelmingly successful Apple iPhone has been blamed for poor service experiences on the AT&T network - according to the carrier, its smartphone network traffic has increased 5,000 percent over the past three years. Now, however, AT&T is putting the iPhone to work, with an app that enables customers to instantly note where and when a performance issue has occurred.
On Dec. 7 AT&T made its AT&T Mark the Spot app available for free in the iTunes App Store. When an issue, such as a dropped call, is experienced, users can offer feedback "with as little as two button clicks," AT&T said in a statement, choosing whether to simply report the problem or expand on the details, and the app automatically sends AT&T a report with the location, time stamp and device used.
In the coming months, AT&T will make the app available for additional smartphones as well.
"With AT&T Mark the Spot, we're applying the power of crowdsourcing to our ongoing efforts to enhance and expand our network," said John Donovan, AT&T chief technology officer, in the statement.
"Feedback from customers via AT&T Mark the Spot, combined with data from more than 964,000 miles of drive testing conducted by an independent third-party source, will enable us to most quickly and effectively identify trends and maximize the impact of our ongoing network investment," Donovan continued. "We encourage all customers to download and use the app."
According to AT&T, an independent research firm's driving tests showed that AT&T had reduced its 3G dropped-call rate by 12 percent over the past year. The carrier says this is the result of its considerable investments - as is the new app, the metrics of which will help AT&T decide where to apply the billions of dollars it has allocated for improving its wireless network.
Other network-enhancement plans, per AT&T, include doubling the amount of wireless spectrum serving its 3G customers in hundreds of markets, using 850MHz spectrum. Over the course of 2009, it reportedly added 2,000 new cell sites as well as 100,000 backhaul connections. It's also rolling out HSPA 7.2 technology, with hopes of reaching six markets by the end of the year, and planning to begin launching LTE wireless networks - a 4G technology - in 2011.
Coverage has been a sore spot for AT&T lately. The carrier recently dropped a lawsuit against rival carrier Verizon Wireless, which portrayed AT&T's 3G wireless coverage areas in a series of new ads that AT&T called "misleading."
Since ads began airing, AT&T has taken steps to ensure that consumers understand the full extent of its services, as well as launched a few ads of its own, emphasizing its title as the nation's fastest 3G network.