Let me get something off my chest right away. I was not going to respond to this on my blog, but am forced to respond here because Mr. Reisinger email address got bounced back to me from my email. I was disappointed as I would have preferred to respond to him directly. Since there is no opportunity to comment on the site directly, I am forced to respond here.
Below is my response to Mr. Reisinger’s article that point by point addresses the so-called” advantages of the VZ iPhone:
First, let me say up front that I am an employee of AT&T. Today, I am not writing as a company spokesperson, but rather as a person committed to our customers at AT&T. So, official disclaimer, my comments are my own and do not represent AT&T or any of their affiliates.
Please allow me to respond to your “10 Advantages” point by point.
1) Verizon has much better coverage.Answer: I have put the emphasis here on the “much” word. While the coverage issue may have been a significant issue in the past, the recent transfer of the Alltel assets from Verizon, has led to a dramatic change in our coverage map. I was told as recently as yesterday by a top company operations person that the switchover of the Alltel assets to AT&T has been done with full 3G coverage as each cell site has been brought online. I am told that much of the switchover has already occurred and the anticipated completion of this switchover should occur within the 1st quarter of 2011. In addition, those remaining “2G” sites on our network are being given priority for LTE conversion. So, our geographic coverage, for all intents and purposes matches nicely with VZ.
2) HotspotAnswer: AT&T has recently announced support for hotspots. Also note change in tethering plan which gives more data included with tethering. See USAToday article:
3) AntennagateAnswer: According to PCWorld, Antennagate is not solved by “redesign” of VZ iPhone Antenna:
In addition, while the antennagate issue has created headlines, I am told that AT&T internal testing shows overall improvement of Voice Calls with iPhone 4 from previous versions of the iPhone.
4) Customer ServiceAnswer: While customer service is something that is a top priority with AT&T, there may be other explanations to this disparity. As you not doubt know, AT&T has a significantly higher proportion of our users who own smartphones (primarily iPhone) than other carriers. People who own smartphones in general and iPhones in particular are amongst the most tech savvy, demanding customers in the business. Providing customer care for a computer is a bigger challenge than simply caring for a phone that texts and carries voice calls. So, while scores by the other carriers may be higher (for now), I am curious what will happen to the other carriers scores as they add more and more smartphone users. I am not excusing AT&T on this, just offering a different way at looking at the scores, (it is not an apples to apples, pardon the pun, comparison). Finally, AT&T has one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.
5) Unlimited DataAnswer: Well that is true, they are offering unlimited data. However, you fail to mention that AT&T provides options. We have plans that allow people who are just beginning to use a smartphone a nice plan that for $15 per month gets them access to 200 mb and saves them $15 monthly over Verizon. Internal studies I have seen note that over 50% of our customers would benefit from such a plan were they to take advantage of it. What you say is the equivalent of paying a higher price for a buffet, when all I really want and need is soup and salad. Everything else would make me fatter. Furthermore, the “all you can eat” buffet as my only option encourages “overeating” and could lead to “long lines” waiting to get to the buffet. Not always a good thing.
Pont 2, AT&T has the largest number of wifi hotspots included with its service in the industry. This means that many will be able to use public wifi without additional charges. This is a significant advantage of the AT&T network.
6) Future 4GAnswer: First, why is this an advantage for the VZ iPhone? The iPhone 4 will not operate on this network and it is debatable whether the iPhone 5 will be LTE compatible either. So this is a real non-issue for the iPhone. Further, AT&T has an announced aggressive 4G plan (and I am talking about LTE not simply HSPA+) LTE is in trial now and first sites will be available beginning in the May-June 2011 timeframe. In the meantime, I am told that all of our 3G cell sites have been upgraded to HSPA+ which has a theoretical speed of 21mb/s download. Our first phones to take advantage of this are being deployed this month and next. Further, this means that when people “drop down” from LTE, it will be a much closer to 4G experience than those who drop down from the VZ LTE.
7) CapacityAnswer: Capacity and Voice Quality have been noted by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson as the number one priority of AT&T in 2011. I was told on an internal call yesterday that challenges that AT&T faced in 2010 were unprecedented. Many have speculated that Verizon is in a better position to handle capacity. I don’t know anything about how VZ manages their network, so I can not comment on that. However, what I can say, is that the iPhone brings demand to a network that is often beyond predication. For example, on a graph I saw yesterday our internal performance tracking data showed acceptable voice quality in most of our markets up through the July timeframe. At that point, the full effect of the iPhone 4 began to hit and may have contributed to capacity issues that were complicated by supplier issues. So, I hear that VZ THINKS they know what to expect, but I have witnessed this first hand, the introduction of this device to the network will likely lead to stressing it in a way that may tax even the best VZ engineers. BTW, our internal tracking data show significant improvement in voice quality performance beginning in the November/December timeframe.
Finally, note that capacity issues in Los Angeles and San Francisco are complicated by regulatory issues that often delay approval for permits to work on our own cell sites. It is difficult for me to believe that Verizon will not face similar permit processing delays as they work to keep up with demand.
8) Not a replicaAnswer: Well yes. But I would argue that it is not necessarily a VZ advantage. For example, the ability to talk and surf the web is HUGE and will become even more dramatic over time. Just this morning, I was on a phone call and had to look up an address on Google Maps to locate where a place was that a speaker was referring me to. Not having to end the call to do this lookup was definitely advantageous. Further, SPEED, the iPhone 4 consistently runs faster on the AT&T network in report after report. Here is my challenge to you. Once you have the iPhone 4 from VZ, take it to several locations use the speedtest.net app to measure performance. If you have a similar experience to many others, you will quickly discover that there is a noticeable and consistent download speed advantage (in most locations) for the AT&T iPhone.
9) Other phones superiorAnswer: if you mean lack of Android Phones, that may have been true in the past. However, consider this. AT&T is the only carrier to offer phones featuring all of the major Operating systems, HP/Palm WebOS, Windows 7, Blackberry Torch and Android. Further, the new “4G” Android phones coming out this month will make for significant advantages. Finally, the Motorola Atrix must be seen to be believed. (Check out this video.) Motorola Atrix 4G Hands-On
10) Verizon Needs to Try HarderAnswer: Yes they do. Based on the points I am suggesting here, they still need to try harder. In a similar way, AT&T needs to try harder also. The challenges to address the voice network have felt like a “trial by fire” to me personally. It appears to me that our brand image has been challenged and I hear it from many of my colleagues that we are more committed than ever to do everything we know how to do to earn back the trust of those customers who have been disappointed with either our voice quality or our customer service. So, Verizon is not alone as a company that must try harder.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I hope that I have done this in a respectful way. I ask that you reconsider your evaluation and point out some of these AT&T points in future articles.