News tagged: Cingular Wireless
AT&T's new self-proclaimed "blogger guy" Seth Bloom has been tasked with damage control in the face of AT&T's recent wireless network congestion PR problems. While Bloom put a welcome human face on a company that's traditionally seen as anything but
during the iPhone 3GS launch, he's now being asked to play PR point guard on what's becoming an increasingly volatile public relations problem for AT&T. It's a problem fueled by high prices, poor connectivity, missing functionality, and slow speeds.
As we noted yesterday
, AT&T's finally given a September 25 launch date for bringing belated (an understatement) MMS functionality to the iPhone. To accompany AT&T's announcement, the carrier posted a new YouTube video featuring Bloom
that insists the carrier is listening to your complaints, with Bloom repeating the company's now familiar statement that they're busy upgrading both backhaul and tower capacity. Judging from the YouTube comments, people aren't exactly buying the "apology:"
The iPhone has been out for more than two years now, and I STILL can't tether my iPhone. If I bought a Blackberry today, I can use AT&T to send MMS and tether it to my computer, so why am I penalized for buying the iPhone. If AT&T can't keep up with the traffic, then you should let Apple market the iPhone to other carriers who can.
It's not clear yet whether AT&T's recent missteps
have Apple reconsidering their iPhone exclusivity arrangement, but judging from AT&T's earnings
, there's no doubt AT&T would like to extend the deal, which expires next year. That said, CEO Randall Stephenson was realistic today that the deal may be nearing its end, telling conference attendees
at Fortune's Brainstorm: Tech conference in Pasadena that he at least acknowledges the deal won't last forever.
iSuppli's bill of materials (BOM) cost estimates are always an event, riling up armchair CEOs and brand fanboys into a lather after every new smartphone release. iSuppli's latest analysis of the iPhone 3GS
finds the 16GB version costs $178.96 to make -- just $4 more than the iPhone 3G.
Everybody but AT&T now officially has some kind of indoor broadband wireless phone range extension system (T-Mobile's @Home, Sprint AIRAVE, and Verizon Wireless Network Extender), but apparently AT&T's launch of their own femtocell service is getting close. According to an AT&T executive
, the company is preparing to expand their 200 home trial of femtocell UMTS service, and will launch the service by the end of the year. Femtocell technology creates a micro cell tower in your home that improves coverage and allows you to make calls over your broadband connection. Easing strain on local towers is the primary perk for carriers; the benefits for consumers depending on price and whether the service eats your wireless minutes
Last week, we noted
how one crisis management expert gave AT&T 24-48 hours to manage the bad PR they were getting from a series of iPhone 3GS launch missteps. In addition to being unprepared to handle new iPhone 3.0 functions such as tethering and MMS, the carrier took a lot of heat for the less egregious offense of not offering the new 3GS at the subsidized price point to older iPhone users still under contact.
Like the iPhone, the Pre doesn't officially support tethering, which leads people who just spent a significant amount of money for a "next-generation" device to naturally explore how to make it happen. Pre Thinking
notes that Palm has "politely" warned the folks behind the Pre Dev Wiki
that they can't talk about unofficial Pre tethering -- for fear of angering the people at Sprint.
AT&T's had about as bad of a public relations week as you can have, taking a beating
across all fronts for delayed support for new iPhone features (MMS, tethering), poor wireless network performance, application crippling, and steep upgrade costs for existing iPhone users eager to buy the new iPhone 3GS. One "crisis communications" expert for a PR firm says AT&T had about 24-48 hours to respond to all of the criticism, and that was yesterday
A class action lawsuit
against AT&T has been given the green light, the suit complaining that Cingular's 2004 acquisition of AT&T resulted in poor service, overcharged users, and new high ETFs for users who attempted to flee. Users who couldn't afford the high ETF had to ride out the spotty service problems caused by integration until the end of their contracts -- paying $18 handset upgrade fees in the process.
As was broadly expected ahead of a new, more video-centric iPhone launch, AT&T this morning announced
their plans to upgrade the carrier's wireless broadband network. According to AT&T, the latest HSPA 7.2 upgrade will begin later this year, and bumps the network's currently maximum theoretical downstream speed from 3.6Mbps to 7.2Mbps.
To gain approval for their acquisition of Alltel, Verizon was forced by the FCC to divest a number of Alltel markets
by May 9, in order to maintain something vaguely resembling competition in the mobile market. The divested markets, which include all of North and South Dakota and chunks of sixteen other States, make up a decent-sized chunk of Alltel's former footprint -- though most of the 85 markets are in less profitable areas. Stocks rallied a bit late today on the news
that -- not too surprisingly -- AT&T will be buying most of these markets for a cool $2.5 billion.
Earlier this month, AT&T modified their 3G terms of service
to seemingly ban Slingbox functionality to "any mobile device" across their HSDPA wireless broadband network. Less than a week later, the company informed us
that those changes were made "in error." The AT&T 3G TOS
were again changed last night or this morning (ChangeDetection.com
is a handy tool to track such changes), this time using more concise language.
There have been rumblings that in 2010, when AT&T's exclusive deal with Apple ends, Verizon would begin offering an EVDO version of the iPhone
to their customers. But AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson tells the Wall Street Journal
that he's in negotiations with Apple to extend AT&T's exclusive iPhone contract until 2011. That may be sorry news for iPhone users in markets where AT&T 3G connectivity either hasn't been deployed, or isn't particularly robust. Apple so far isn't commenting, only saying "we have a great relationship with AT&T."
The San Francisco Chronicle
reports that a cut fiber line in California has resulted in a fairly significant outage for landline and wireless customers in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. AT&T has confirmed the outage via Twitter
, saying they have crews on the scene with more detail forthcoming. The outage is impacting not only AT&T customers, but wireless and DSL customers with Verizon, Sprint and other competitors such as Sonic.net, which also offered a tweet
on the outage.Update
: It appears that "sabotage
" may have been responsible for the outage.
Last week we noted
that consumer advocates were annoyed with two things: AT&T changing their TOS to further restrict streaming, and the release of a new version of Skype for the iPhone that limits the application to only working via Wi-Fi. AT&T has since reached out to us to claim that the TOS changes were a mistake. "The language added on March 30 to AT&T’s wireless data service Terms and Conditions was done in error," spokesman Seth Bloom tells me. "It was brought to our attention and we have since removed it," he says, adding that "we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused." Of course like most 3G service fine print
AT&T's is still wildly restrictive, just not that
Calling the economics "terrific," AT&T is already offering subsidized netbooks
by both Aspire and Dell, with the goal of locking customers into long-term 3G data contracts. According to a company announcement
, the carrier is going to expand their efforts into selling both "mini-laptops" (netbooks to anyone under 70) and
more expensive laptops in their stores -- starting in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
While such deals have been common overseas for a while, AT&T just started offering users subsidized netbooks from both Dell and Acer if they're willing to sign two-year wireless broadband contracts. Now reports indicate that Verizon will be joining the trend as well
, and is in negotiation with multiple hardware vendors to release $100, subsidized netbooks sometime this year. Such plans are a nice deal for the telcos, who subsidize $200-$300 of the netbook cost, but make more than $1,440 over two years by locking the user into a $60 per month contract. But as carriers start pushing users onto more capable devices, you'll start seeing more users run into the 5GB data cap. AT&T already faces a lawsuit
from one netbook owner who was confused by overage charges.
Since 2005, AT&T has been giving customers rebate cards instead of checks during rebate promotions for wireless services. While portrayed as debit cards, the cards were not redeemable for cash, couldn't be used for cash withdrawals, and expired 120 days from the day they were issued -- with little of this actually made clear during promotions. This apparently annoyed New York's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who this week announced
that as part of an agreement with the AG's office, AT&T will be paying out $2.63 million to consumers (you'll be alerted if you're impacted) and must be more transparent in rebate offers in the future.
The past few years have seen a ridiculous flood of stories
about customers who didn't read the fine print on their wireless 3G broadband contracts, and were hammered by wireless data bills that almost require second mortgages. The Chicago Tribune
has the latest tale of a man who decided to watch a "Slingboxed" Chicago Bears game while on a cruise ship, in the process racking up an AT&T HSDPA bill of $27,788.93.
Last Friday the The Communications Workers of America applied some pressure on negotiations with AT&T Mobility, by voting to authorize a strike
if necessary. Over the weekend negotiations hit a standstill and CWA supposedly walked away from the table. According to a statement
issued by the CWA this morning, the union asked for a thirty day negotiation extension -- something AT&T refused. The negotiations impact some 20,000 AT&T Wireless employees. The Boy Genius Report
has a leaked e-mail with details of AT&T's "last, best and final offer" to the union.
JD Power and Associates has released their latest Customer Care survey
, which tracks wireless satisfaction among some 13,000 customers. The rankings
place T-Mobile highest in wireless customer care performance with a score of 755 out of 1,000, thanks largely to short hold times.
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