Case study: Griping about signal quality can produce results

For most iPhone owners, it seems like AT&T is deaf to our complaints about signal quality. It appears, however, that griping loudly and repeatedly to the company does have an effect.

I live in the suburbs south of Denver and my signal quality is pretty good. However, whenever my wife and I have gone to Colorado Rockies baseball games in the last few years (we're season ticket holders), we've had awful service at the ballpark. Although the signal strength indicator would show five bars, it was impossible to do much of anything with our iPhones or iPads. Even trying to send out text messages would fail, and attempts to use the MLB At-Bat app in the ballpark were laughable to the point that I didn't purchase the app for the 2010 season. What was even more frustrating is that AT&T is a ballpark advertiser at Coors Field, so you think they'd want their service to be excellent.

I started using the AT&T Mark the Spot app at every game I went to, making complaints about how bad the signal quality was. My wife did the same, and I encouraged many other iPhone users at the ballpark to do so as well. Often, the app wasn't able to send out the complaint, location, and signal strength info until we left the ballpark and were heading home.

Well, it appears that the griping had a positive effect. At Tuesday night's winning game against the Cincinnati Reds, we noticed that not only did we have five bars of signal strength, but data transfer was lightning-fast. I actually loaded some iPhone updates during the 7th-inning stretch with no problems, and uploaded some photos to Facebook. These were all things that I couldn't do before. I thought that this was just a fluke, until my wife pointed out an article on a local news website yesterday.

According to the article, AT&T has just installed the equivalent of eight cell sites in the ballpark with a distributed antenna system connected to more than 120 antenna locations. The reason? Necessity, according to an AT&T spokesman. Perhaps we're already benefiting from the 18-19 billion dollar investments in their network AT&T boasted about yesterday.

I'm looking forward to using that fast 3G service for future games, which will hopefully include some playoff action for the Rox.