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New York Times calls iPhone the 'Hummer of cellphones'

Mel Martin
Mel Martin|September 3, 2009 1:00 PM
Why? Because the iPhone sucks up network bandwidth on a rather massive scale. The article, available online, tells a story most iPhone users already know.

AT&T was unprepared for the massive assault on the 3G network from phones that stream audio and video, and surf the web at a rate far higher than other smartphones.

The piece quotes AT&T Wireless exec John Donovan saying "It's been a challenging year for us. Overnight we're seeing a radical shift in how people are using their phones... There's just no parallel for the demand."

That won't make AT&T customers any happier. A recent survey by Pricegrabber found that 34% of those that responded say they aren't buying an iPhone because it is on AT&T. Many current customers say they'd like to be anywhere but AT&T with their iPhone, but it's likely that a mass migration to Verizon or some other carrier might cause the same problems there.

One issue is that AT&T just isn't communicating very well with customers who are paying a boatload of money for data and text messaging. AT&T could easily (but not happily) drop rates a bit, or eliminate or reduce the high charges for texting. They could apologize to customers for the flood of dropped calls and lack of 3G service in big cities like New York or San Francisco.

Instead, there is stoic silence. No guidance on tethering or MMS release dates, nor communication of any kind really. AT&T already has a pretty big PR problem, and they seem determined to make it worse.

I contacted AT&T today about tethering and MMS, especially since the New York Times article says AT&T is 'postponing tethering.'

The response, from Michael Coe at AT&T, says they have never specified a date for tethering, and when I asked again about MMS there was simply no reply. Update: AT&T has just responded with an MMS date. Quoting Brad Mays of AT&T Wireless:

The date is September 25th, which does indeed fall a few days past the official end of summer. It was important to give our customers a positive experience from day one. We support more iPhone customers than any other carrier in the world so we took the time necessary to make sure our network is ready to handle what we expect will be a record volume of MMS traffic. We truly appreciate our customers' patience and hope they'll understand our desire to get it right from the start.

The service will be enabled with a software update on the launch date. Customers can obtain the update from iTunes, just like all other iPhone updates.

As for tethering, by its nature, this function could exponentially increase traffic on the network, and we need to ensure that some of our current upgrades are in place before we can deliver the expanded functionality with the excellent performance that customers expect. We expect to offer tethering in the future.