Friday, April 23, 2010

St. Paul (MSP) AT&T iPhone voice service now intolerably bad

Something has changed over the past year with our iPhone voice services around our home (Macalester-Groveland, St Paul, Minnesota) and, to a lesser extent, along my commute (St. Paul to Roseville).

Voice services have gone from mediocre to intolerably bad. The “bars” are meaningless; even with 3-4 “bars” connection failures and call drops are ubiquitous. We can’t reliable make or receive calls from our home, which is rather a problem since we don’t have long distance landline service.

Curiously data services (3G) are doing well. We’ve tried turning off 3G services at home (EDGE only) to see if voice connections improves, but that doesn’t help enough. I suspect local AT&T carrying capacity is the problem, not wireless signal.

We rely on our iPhones for a lot of things, but we need voice services.

I understand that iPhone-class technology, and the absurdity of flat-rate data service pricing, has put a great deal of strain on AT&T’s networks. I understand that our community is resistant to installing new cell towers. That understanding does not translate into sympathy. Our family is paying, I’m chastened to confess, thousands of dollars for services AT&T is not delivering.

There are things AT&T could do. They could end their insane flat-rate pricing, and institute pay-per-use bundles with similar value but user-aligned incentives. They could provide us with a free AT&T 3G MicroCell (aka femtocell) along with discounts for use. They could give us substantial discounts on their mobile services pending a fix.

They’re not doing any of these things. Instead of providing free MicroCells and discounted services, for example, AT&T charges for their femtocell solution.

I miss the days when it was possible to initiate class action lawsuits for failure to deliver contracted services.

If some other company gets iPhones in June our family will switch. We have only one under-contract iPhone and we can sell it and pay the AT&T penalty.

If no other company gets iPhones, I will find out how good Droid really is.

Update: A computer generated (location customized) AT&T response has some relevant details:

… We see that the coverage around your home is considered to be our best coverage and it includes 3G service.   We also see that there is a planned tower about 2 miles from your home at Osceola and Lexington Parkway S.  This tower is slated to be operational mid August 2010…

…Please contact Customer Care at 611 from a cell phone or at 1-800-331-0500 from landline phone if the problem persists.    Have your wireless device available to allow for proper troubleshooting if problems persist…

So even though our coverage is failing on multiple phones, AT&T considers it to be pretty good. There’s something wrong there.

The 3 miles tower is too far away to help us directly, but it’s close enough to reduce the burden on our proximal towers. On the other hand by August we’ll have the 2010 iPhone and the 3G iPad – so any additional local AT&T capacity will be swamped.

If you do try to phone the 800 number, check the gethuman recommendations:

Press "1" at the system asking for your phone number, and then press "0" at next prompt.

Things are unlikely to improve.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am in the mac groveland area, and I just filed a complaint with AT&T about my iphone service. I've been experiencing the exact same problems as you. The best thing to do, is to call AT&T and if they get enough complaints, maybe they'll fix it. But they claim they haven't had any problems in this area. Which is BS. My girlfriends service is the same terrible service I have. And i'm going to encourage her to file a complaint.

In order to file a ticket complaint, write down 2 instances of dropped calls. The time they happened, and the number you were connected with.

John Gordon said...

I've been using their iPhone app to document dropped calls. You're right about the "any problems" -- BS.