Much has been written recently about the implications of the iPhone showing up on the Verizon network. Some have made outrageous predictions of the number of people who will defect from AT&T. I believe, on the other hand, that AT&T will do just fine and may, in fact, do better than fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to grow faster than Verizon.
A couple of points to bear in mind. AT&T has been working with the iPhone now for three years and has first hand knowledge of what this does to the network. It’s been reported that 2% of iPhone users account for 40% of all (not just iPhone) data traffic. So, Verizon may THINK they know what is coming, but they have yet to truly experience the stress to the network that the iPhone brings. Meanwhile, AT&T continues to build it's network capacity.
The wifi strategy is continuously downplayed. The significance of this reveals a very sophisticated approach to data management that AT&T has embarked. What people, bloggers, writers have missed is the significance of data. We are fast moving to a (wireless) data centric world. THE reason why Verizon appears to perform better is based almost exclusively on their voice performance (lack of dropped calls, etc.) While, aside from San Francisco and New York, it is debatable whether the dropped calls issue is a true one or red herring, when people complain, they complain because of dropped calls. (Take a look at tweets, 90% of the time you see #attfail, it is due to either dropped calls or customer service.)
So what you might ask. Especially since the point of a mobile phone is to make phone calls correct? Ah, but here is what is happening in the real world. The moment that people get their hands on an iPhone (or another smart phone), they begin to use data like crazy. In fact, there have been stories that voice is just another “app” on the iPhone and people are using voice less and less. So data is the new king and this is where AT&T rocks.
AT&T has, hands down, the largest wifi footprint (think every Starbucks, McDonalds, Borders, etc.) With the seamless wifi strategy, where a user can float easily between the 3g and wifi (and soon lte) networks, at&t users have much more capacity to work with. They have the infrastructure to handle the data demands. Finally, consider this. As the lte of both networks gets built out, there will be swaths of the country where 3g will continue to be the primary data conduit. Because at&t has focused on a technology (hsdpa) with its capacity to handle speeds up to 14.4 on 3g, when people move out of lte foot print, the drop off in speed won’t as severe as the 3g drop off from Verizon (3.4).
So, say what you want about Verizon, AT&T has completely rethought “the network” and has built it for a world of data.