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Short Takes on VoIP and Mobile

AT&T Mobile/Wireless - In Spin Control Mode

Let's face it, AT&T made an error two years ago and miscalculated what the iPhone would mean. I don't mean that people inside AT&T didn't know what would happen. They did. Executives inside the mobile division expressed that it would take at least seven billion dollars to double the capacity of their aging mobile network. Now, AT&T has begun the spin control because their network is not keeping up with demand. This has zero to do with technology. It has to do with greed.

When the original AT&T sold it's mobile network to Cingular, those AT&T cities/markets were already well on their way to 3G and in a dead heat vs. Verizon and Sprint for a real next generation network. It was the rest of Cingular that wasn't. Who owned Cingular? Bell South and Southwestern Bell, two RBOCs that were run like old line telcos, with the occasional flash of "we're gearing up for the next ....." type of statements. Both covered large parts of the USA, but other than a few sacred cows, like Houston, Dallas, Miami and Atlanta, for the most part, the territory they covered could care less about the wireless data boom that was coming. Or so they thought. Their mockery of recognizing the digital divide is outrageous. Instead of saying, let's do what's best, and take the short term hit, by building out a real 3G network, with enough capacity to handle growth everywhere, the chose instead to pick pockets of market areas, and even there, they missed.

The revelation about San Francisco is only shocking if you never tried to get anything done in that city. Government moves like molasses. Planning takes years. AT&T could have leveraged the idea of WiFi very quickly in SF, but instead was more concerned about selling old style 1.0 era DSL. Instead if installing fiber as Verizon is doing across their footprint, AT&T developed the next generation of long range DSL, named it uVerse and are trying to fight the cable companies on one front, while doing their best to battle Verizon Wireless on another. How could the AT&T veterans from PacBell not know how long it would take to wade through all the red tape to get better locations for bigger and faster cell sites? How could the AT&T engineers not realize that backhaul was going to be an issue, when companies like Firetide have been screaming that story at them and the rest of the tech world for a few years now. How can they as a company, who buys from Cisco and other giants in the technology plumbing business, not understand that they were going to have a capacity issue? They did and they went into self denial mode.

These spin control statements at investor conferences are designed to shore up the confidence of the investors, and the analysts. But when you read between the lines you can clearly see that they royally screwed up. Misjudged the market by a country mile and are now asking their customers to pay for their mistakes.

What I don't understand is this though. Why can other nation's operators who are all offered the same equipment, software, hardware, infrastructure components, and so forth, all build a working network without the hassles and AT&T can't in the same number of years? To me, the answer is simple. As AT&T has rolled itself back into what it was before, one giant phone company, the vision of break up, divestiture and the future was erased. Instead of rabid competition, we have a limited choice of options. It's time for the FCC to step in and become the playing field leveler. Take some things away from AT&T, create a hotbed of competition, and open up the airwaves. Start by trimming their lobbying efforts. Then, hold them accountable for their intentional misdeeds. Lastly, give more power to those rising, by fostering a climate of change.

By the way. The same decision makers calling the big shots for wireless, are those same folks who stopped bringing you CallVantage.....maybe not in name, but in culture, inside the company upbringing and philosophy.


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Andy, the "new" AT&T has historically and always been cheap with investing in infrastructure -- despite the cheesy commercials to pave over their mistakes.

They were cheap with fiber deployments, they're cheap with LTE, and AT&T is going to be ultimately punished by Wall Street as Verizon Wireless starts taking away customers over the next three years.

Of course, this means Verizon becomes the One Big Phone company down the road, but one problem at a time...


Best article I've read in a long time. The federal government engineered the telephone oligopoly, and they're the ones that are going to have to do something about the almost total lack of competition that we now find in the U.S. market. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later.

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