Is AT&T quietly downgrading its EDGE network?

closeHey, just so you know ... this post is now about 10 years and 8 months old. Please keep that in mind as it very well may contain broken links and/or outdated information.

I manage a lot of AT&T mobile phones at work, mainly Treos (plus a few Centros) and Windows Mobile devices like the Tilt. Starting about a month ago, the Treo users (myself included) started having data coverage issues. Areas of the office that were fine before were suddenly dead zones and phones would drop data coverage (even while outside!) and not automatically reconnect.

Since this was only affecting the Treos, it seemed obvious that it was a problem with AT&T’s older EDGE network (the current generation of Palm OS-based devices can’t do 3G). When I called AT&T Mobility’s technical support earlier last month, I was just told there were “network issues” in the area and they were being worked on. But a month later, the strange coverage problems persist.

Then today I came across this article on Open for Business, via Engadget:

In an act affecting owners of 2G cell phones on AT&T Mobility’s network, including the highly visible, and originally highly expensive first generation iPhone, Open for Business has learned that AT&T has been quietly sacrificing 2G signal strength in an effort to speed up the build out of its next generation 3G network.

While previously the company had been primarily relying on the 850 MHz band that offers a more robust signal, including superior indoor reception, company technicians confirmed to OFB that transmitters for the 2G signal used by the original iPhone and most other handsets, including most AT&T offered BlackBerry and RAZR models, have been shifted to the weaker 1900 MHz band in some areas.

Are you kidding me? It makes sense, from a conspiracy standpoint (get people to upgrade to newer, more expensive 3G devices like the iPhone) and could explain our current coverage problems, but from a business standpoint it seems like you’d end up with a lot of angry customers who suddenly have non-working data connections on their phones, not to mention a looming PR nightmare.

Now this whole thing could be heresy, so as usual don’t believe everything you read on the internet (just check out the comments to the OFB post and you’ll see what I mean).

Fortunately, my desk at work seems to be a “good” area because usually when someone brings their phone to me, it’ll start working. Then I take it back to their own desk and it drops the network connection again. sigh

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