Tag Archives: AT&T

AT&T and FaceTime – Why are you Surprised?

FaceTime over cellular from AT&T will only be available to Mobile Share customers:

Customers who stay on a grandfathered unlimited plan or a tiered plan will be limited to using FaceTime over a WiFi connection. 

(Via TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog)

Not to be a jerk, or anything. But duh. You really thought AT&T was going to allow unlimited free long-distance video calls over their network? 

I’ve been telling people for years that holding on to an old grandfathered unlimited plan was a waste of money. If you are only using 2-6 GB of data every month (which most people are), but keeping the unlimited as a “future proof” strategy, you’ve been spending more money every month for nothing. And sooner or later, when it really mattered and you really DID have some new feature that would eat up much more data, AT&T was going to pull the rug out from under you, anyway. 

The house always wins.

I thought it would be 4G (the real 4G, LTE, not the nonsense “4G” that AT&T gives us now) that would spell the end of unlimited data for all. Now it looks like FaceTime over 3G beat it by a few months. 

Pay your early cancellation, if you want, and move over to Verizon or somewhere else. That’s your right. But don’t be surprised that AT&T wasn’t going to give this one away for free just because you’ve been loyal. That’s pretty naive, you have to admit. 

Nice infographic from Tech Hive on LTE speeds

Infographic: 4G LTE speeds, Verizon vs. AT&T:

The infographic below shows each carrier’s average LTE speed in the cities we tested where both LTE services are offered. The cities are ranked according to a composite score of AT&T and Verizon LTE download speed.

(Via Tech Hive)

The problem with average speeds in tests like this is that they mean almost nothing compared to your real-world performance. Now that I’m carrying an AT&T phone and a Verizon iPad, I have to say, Verizon is hands-down the better choice for me personally. And I’m very often getting faster speeds than this average on LTE with my iPad.

More importantly, I’m getting extremely fast speeds in places where I get zero signal on AT&T. And many of them are places I frequent.

But that’s me. I know other people who live in other places where AT&T is absolutely the right choice. I know people who live in San Francisco for whom AT&T is a better choice. Cell coverage is still a very touch and go thing.

So, as always, your mileage may vary. You have to take that into consideration before charts like this sway your decision-making, interesting as they are.

AT&T will begin throttling heavy wireless users on old grandfathered unlimited plans

The company notes that “Starting October 1, smartphone customers with unlimited data plans may experience reduced speeds once their usage in a billing cycle reaches the level that puts them among the top 5 percent of heaviest data users.

This is not surprising. And my guess is it’s just the beginning. Expect more stringent throttling soon.

Lots of my friends and some prominent bloggers kept their “grandfathered” plans last year when AT&T dropped the unlimited plan. They were no doubt thinking as long as they kept paying the higher fees for the old unlimited plan, they’d be able to keep that indefinitely. This, despite the fact that many of them don’t use anywhere near the 2GB a month cap on the cheaper $20 plan.

But I dropped my unlimited immediately, figuring that at the very least, when 4G comes out, AT&T would come up with some excuse why that was a DIFFERENT data plan, and thus wasn’t eligible for unlimited. Now it looks like they’re not even going to wait until the 4G iPhone rolls around.

So why pay $10 a month more in the meantime for something you’re not using, if in the future, when you need that extra data most, the carrier is just going to pull the rug out from under you anyway?

AT&T capping desktop Internet access. Cable companies will follow.

How does AT&T defend the move? The company explains it will only impact two percent of consumers who use “a disproportionate amount of bandwidth,” and poses the caps as an alternative to throttling transfer speeds or disconnecting excessive users from the service completely. Customers will be able to check their usage with an online tool, and get notifications when they reach 65 percent, 90 percent and 100 percent of their monthly rates.

This impacts two percent of customers today. What about five years from now? Once we all start streaming all of our television and movies through the Internet at 2160p, how many gigabytes will the average user be downloading a month?

Any sort of bandwidth cap is a huge step backwards for the Internet. It’s a step towards limiting access to only those who have the means to keep paying a premium. It creates, at best, a divided highway; one wide open five-lane autobahn with no speed limit for the rich, and one congested, two-lane, pot-holed mess for everyone else.

But our useless government won’t do anything to stop it.

Conspiracy Theory Regarding the AT&T Data Plan Changes

There’s something very curious about the 200MB Data Plus plan. That number, 200MB, wasn’t chosen randomly. Now that I’ve been reading all these bloggers out there (like my friend, Webomatica) posting their usage over the past six months, I’m noticing a pattern. Most people are right around that 200MB mark most months. As am I. Some months it’s 190MB, some it’s 230MB. But somewhere close to that number.

Now, think about the price for overages. AT&T charges $15 more for an additional 200MB, if you go over the 200MB limit. If you are on the Pro plan, which costs $25, you only pay an extra $10 for an additional 1GB. 

So they charge more for 200MB than for 1GB of extra data. 

Here’s my theory: AT&T is betting that most of us will switch to the 200MB plan, because we’ll figure that we’re close to that most months, anyway, and if we go over, it’s just $15 more, which puts us at the same $30 we pay now. If the incentive instead leaned us toward the $25 Pro plan for 2 GB, we’d all be paying $5 a month less to AT&T, which would translate into a real loss in revenue. Almost none of us is going to go over the 2GB, so there’s little or no chance that they’ll get that extra $10 out of us for going over 2GB.

So they capped that $15 plan exactly where they needed to in order to minimize their losses while still trying to generate goodwill about these changes. Smart business. 

But you’re not fooling me, AT&T. I’m moving to the Pro plan and saving myself the $5 every month, rather than taking the chance of maybe saving $15 once in a while when I don’t go over that 200MB limit. 

About those new AT&T Data plans

While AT&T asserts that its high-end 2GB cap will only impact the heaviest users, the fact is that today’s heavy user is tomorrow’s average user,” Free Press policy counsel M. Chris Riley said in a statement. “Internet overcharging schemes like the one AT&T proposes will discourage innovative new uses and stifle healthy growth in the mobile broadband economy. It is price gouging for AT&T to charge the low-end users $15 per 200MB, and to charge $20 for tethering capability even if no additional capacity is used. This pricing system is clearly divorced from the actual underlying cost of service.

This is the issue for me. From the looks of it, I actually stand to save some money in the short term. Looking at my average data usage, I’m most certainly safe with the 2GB plan, and can almost fit under the 200MB plan. And I’m a pretty heavy iPhone user. I have my email set to push, I’m constantly using apps, browsing, etc.

(I guess it helps to live in San Francisco, where I can’t get signal most places, anyway.)

So with the new plans, I will save $10 a month ($5 each for me and my girlfriend’s iPhone) at least. I could change my usage habits a bit and save myself $30 a month with the DataPlus plan, though I’m not sure I want to start counting kilobytes just yet.

But the real issue is that quote above. I may use just just over 200 MB now, but how much data will I use next year? New iPhones are going to have new features, features that are likely to drive me to want to use the Internet more. The iPhone that will likely be announced next Monday will have a front-facing video camera. How much data is a video chat going to eat?

It’s clear that AT&T has network issues. I don’t necessarily have a problem with charging the 2% of really heavy users more money. After all, they are helping to bring down the speed for the rest of us. But I always worry whenever a giant company like AT&T makes a change that appears to save consumers money at first. Tiered pricing is almost always a ploy to make more money, not help customers.

If the limit on the 2GB plan gets raised to 3GB, or 4GB, etc. as the needs of the average user evolve, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. For now, I remain skeptical.

And, as everyone seems to be suggesting today, the Tethering pricing is a complete ripoff. If you’re not giving me more data, I shouldn’t be paying more, period. At least now we know why AT&T hasn’t offered Tethering up until now. They didn’t know what to do about unlimited data. Removing unlimited as an option was the only way to keep their network from completely crumbling, I guess.

Which is why Tethering is only an option if you switch to one of these new plans. And for those of you planning on keeping your unlimited plan, have fun with that iPhone 3Gs for the rest of your life. Because you won’t be able to upgrade phones without changing to a non-unlimited plan, either.

AT&T imposes a new $325 early termination fee, just like Verizon

Bad news is traditionally reserved for Friday—late Friday afternoon being most promising. And last Friday, AT&T dropped a bit of bad news in an “open letter to our valued customers”: get ready to pay $325 in early termination fees (ETFs) if you want a new iPhone.

A few things to say about this development, late as I may be to chime in:

First: LAME. AT&T seems absolutely hell bent on making its customers hate the company as much as humanly possible. I’m reminded of “A Bronx Tale”, when Calogero asks Sonny if it’s better to be feared than to be loved. Sonny choses fear, of course, because that’s the path he’s already gone down, and it’s too late for him to change.

Sonny is dead by the end of the film, and Calogero learns that Love is the way to go. But I digress…

Now that that’s out of the way, let me go into what I think this means for the future of the iPhone. Lots of people are speculating that this raised fee implies that a Verizon iPhone is set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. Actually, I believe the opposite is true. This announcement practically guarantees that there will NOT be an announcement of iPhone on Verizon, or Sprint, or anyone else in the US, at least not until well after the new iPhone HD (or whatever Apple calls it) is shipping.

Why? Think about it. This new raised ETF will only apply to people who sign up for new contracts. Evil as AT&T may be, they can’t impose a higher ETF on current contracts, like the ones we all are in now.

If Apple were going to announce a new iPhone running on Verizon in a few weeks, and AT&T would have to know that, they’d want to do whatever they could to stem the tide of people dropping AT&T for Verizon. Raising that fee on new contracts wouldn’t help convince people to sign up again.

Sure, Verizon charges the same high fee, but that’s the point. AT&T could use their lower ETF as a bargaining chip to keep their customers for a little while longer. At least some of them.

The non-AT&T US iPhone is indeed coming, but with the NEXT generation of iPhone after this one to be announced. Probably at least six months, if not a year, away from now. Most Apple fanatics can’t wait a year for the latest and greatest from Apple. So we’ll all sign up for AT&T one more time this summer. And then when the Verizon iPhone does come out a year later, we’ll be either discouraged by that extra fee from leaving, or we’ll pay the extra money. Either way, AT&T wins. If making more money in the short term could be considered winning.

You see, at this point, AT&T knows we hate them. So they are going to milk as much money as they can from us before we leave. They’ve made a clear decision that it’s cheaper to have us leave than it would be to get us to like them enough to stay. It’s not personal. It’s business.

What I can’t figure out is what AT&T plans to do AFTER that mass exodus occurs. This new fee buys them maybe an extra year of life. What do they do after that?

Then again, CEOs in the US aren’t generally known to be long-term planners. They think in quarters, not decades.

I’m also curious to see what happens once everyone does abandon AT&T for Verizon. If Verizon managed to grab even 20% of AT&T’s business with an iPhone, I’m guessing the network would experience strains similar to what AT&T has now. Then people will get angry with Verizon, pay the $350 fee, and go back to AT&T. And then back to Verizon. etc.

Maybe that’s the long-term plan.

Note from a long weekend in Philadelphia: AT&T really is ripping San Francisco off

People who don’t live in San Francisco are most likely tired of hearing it by now. But I just want to reconfirm and reiterate that if you’ve never been to San Francisco with your iPhone, you have no way of knowing just how terrible we have it here. Especially not if you live in Philadelphia.

For three days, I went everywhere from Center City to many of the surrounding suburbs, walking, standing still, and driving at various speeds, and NOT ONCE did I ever have anything but full voice and 3G service. Not once did I get a flaky GPS signal that led me to wrong turns on my way to my sister’s house.

The impact this reliability has on the experience of owning an iPhone is profound.

How much more pleasant it was, not having to worry whether or not my phone was going to sit there dumbly, spinning its data icon, pretending that it would eventually connect and get me that weather report or that Yelp info on the restaurant I wanted to try. How amazing it was whenever my phone rang, having a reasonable expectation that when I picked up the call, I’d actually hear the voice on the other end, and he or she would hear me.

Wait a minute. Did I really just say that my phone actually rang, not just put my caller straight through to voicemail? A voicemail that I wouldn’t receive on my phone for up to three days?

I’m not talking about the difference between good, reliable service and bad service here. I’m talking about the difference between excellent service and non-service. Night and Day. Heaven and Hell. Up and Down.

Yes, Philadelphia. It is true that you get much, much better service than we do in San Francisco. You actually get what you pay for every month, what AT&T promised you on their end of the contract. So why do we put up with it here in the City by the Bay? Because we’re idiots. And because the iPhone really is that great a device.

But you lost a sale when I went for the WiFi only iPad, AT&T. And you’re going to lose a lot more customers when Apple eventually offers an iPhone on another network. You’d better hope that San Franciscans aren’t traveling too much, where they might get a taste, like I did, of what they should be getting.

AT&T CEO: iPad will be ‘Wi-Fi driven’ device | Tablets | iPhone Central | Macworld

In an odd move, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said at an investor conference on Tuesday that the iPad would be primarily a “Wi-Fi driven device.” This despite Apple’s plans to release a 3G-enabled version that will run on AT&T’s own network.

“My expectation is that there’s not going to be a lot of people out there looking for another subscription,” Reuters reports him saying.

In other words, AT&T doesn’t expect the iPad to have an impact on the 3D bandwidth issues they’ve been plagued with for years. And thus they are doing nothing to prepare for any possible impact.

Never underestimate the stupidity of public statements from AT&T. It’s not that I’m surprised the CEO feels this way. That much is obvious to anyone. It’s that his handlers are dumb enough to let him make statements like this.

Maybe Lewis Black is right, and the only difference between the old days and today is that business and government no longer try to hide the fact that they’re screwing us. They’ve always done this stuff, but they used to try to hide it.

There’s just such an insane sense of arrogance going on these days.

AT&T still doesn’t get it

Also in the earnings call, Stankey and AT&T Chief Financial Officer Rick Lindner both emphasized that AT&T’s 20,000 Wi-Fi hot spots will help iPad performance, and that iPad users will also rely on private Wi-Fi service in homes and offices. Lindner said the iPad will be used a “substantial amount of time in a Wi-Fi environment” and promised that if that’s not the case, “we’ll adapt to it.”

Really? Because you’ve already proven that you can adapt to changing conditions so well?

You can’t be successful by making assumptions and then reacting when those assumptions prove to be false. You succeed by preparing for the worst possible scenario.

AT&T SHOULD be assuming this: Apple will sell 20 million iPads with 3G this year; all iPad 3G users will use iPad 90% of the time on 3G, not WiFi; every one of those users will be living in the same neighborhood of San Francisco.

And then they should build their network to handle that much traffic anywhere in the U.S.