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AT&T: I Expected Better

AT&T and T-Mobile are in a war of words, using stats to confound and confuse and basically fighting a battle of whose is bigger...the most recent ads though by AT&T seem to go into the sewer after T-Mobile sought to keep the fight on the street. As a longstanding customer of both companies, it hurts to see wasted efforts like these when they both should be pouring their money into making for a better customer experience, not having a war of words, which in reality, don't solve the problems.

When it comes to mobile operators in the USA, I'm a customer of all four mobile operators. The reason? Coverage, or the lack of it in many places. Where I live, and where I travel means I need the flexibility and reliability that none of them really can deliver. In the USA coverage is huge issue and while there's a steady battle on about dropped calls, speeds and failed calls, the reality is that tower locations are getting harder to find, in building coverage is a challenge and backhaul for data is getting deeply constrained.

Over the past year my primary mobile device has become the iPhone, and while I started using it more than my BlackBerry on T-Mobile becuase of the apps, and no other reason, I still used my BlackBerry on T-Mobile heavily for two things. Email and BlackBerry Messenger. Up until the arrival of the iPhone 5, the iPhone on AT&T was my lead phone and carrier for calls, not because the network was better, but simply because it was the phone that worked best in the car with the least distraction to make or take calls. When the iPhone 5 arrived, I bought two of them. One each on Verizon Wireless, and another on AT&T-both unlocked.

Since its arrival, the Verizon phone has seen the bulk of the voice minutes which previously used to go to AT&T, and the reason is simple. Coverage but certainly not call quality. What happened recently in San Diego, and likely elsewhere is as AT&T "upgraded" their networks to LTE the voice coverage patterns changed, with places like my favorite breakfast joint losing coverage and other places like the freeway, adding better coverage. A long talk with folks inside AT&T Network determined that the changes to the network coverage in San Diego County caused this and what's more I was offered to be let out of any contracts.

But, as someone who travels, leaving AT&T wasn't the answer. Being polyamourous was. And, I'm not talking about using both circuit switched cellular and VOIP or Skype. I'm referring to using multiple carriers.

My issue with Verizon though is different. The vagaries of call quality are very evident, especially when calls to me originate on Skype, go through GoogleVoice or come from or go to another mobile operator. The transcoding, and network hopping of voice calls today in the USA is so bad that its not about dropped calls, speeds and failed calls. No, its about quality.

My guess is that Sprint wins on quality, not because they have a bigger footprint. They don't. Simply because they have less people on their network. You don't see Sprint playing in this game of gutter ball. Nor Verizon. Both are taking the high road, and I hope they stay there, because, gutter ball marketing has a way of coming back to bite you, and customers have a long memory.

What's really going on here is the new T-Mobile model of no contracts is going to hurt AT&T the most, because they are playing the accounting game, and have been for many years, not the sales and marketing game, where the customer is who matters. T-Mobile is, and in doing so, the strategic level battles that are going on began before merger was begun. If I was a betting man, T-Mobile was hoping for a DoJ rejection of the sale, as the strategy that has unfolded ever since --Metro PCS merger, switch to LTE, getting spectrum as part of the breakup fee, etc., all seems to pat.

AT&T-your legacy demands you do better. Getting into a gutter war, is not what I would have expected. There are other ways to win back your customers. It starts with being a different kind of company, not a gutter ball war.



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