AT&T network is the big weak spot left for iPhone

Now that 3.0 has shipped, the iPhone is a pretty remarkable device, the big holes left are lousy battery life (maybe the 3GS will really be better???) and lousy, lousy coverage. In Seattle, you get deadspots driving from downtown Seattle to Bellevue on I-5, you are guaranteed to lose the call in three places. Right at the I-5 ramp at Mercer St, right at the SR-520 and I-5 interchange and then at the western high rise of the SR-520. And of course, if you try to use your iPhone in Manhatten, it feels like it drops every block.

So what to be done about it particularly given how great Verizon and even T-Mobile coverage is. Well, AT&T claims that they are doing 3G on 850MHz. With a massive megaloth with locked up phones like iPhone, who knows if they are at all serious (why should they be?). But, they say that getting all the TDMA customers off of 850MHz might help. Smartdevicecentral.com has a great review of 3G networks that seems accurate to me. First is that although AT&T has specs for up to 3.6Mbps (going to 7.2Mbps) in practice, they don’t have nearly that bandwidth. On a sustained basis, AT&T in that test got 471Kbps-537Kpbs on average, while Verizon got 1.1Mbps download and 470Kbps upload.

And the coverage map data shows Verizon as much better but AT&T even in the most optimistic map doesn’t extend much beyond major cities. Cellreception.com is a great site that monitors real world coverage and NYC show that on a scale of 4, Verizon gets 3.4/4 while AT&T get 2/4. Interesting, the site says that in Seattle no one is particular good, T-Mobile is 2.7/4 (it’s the headquarters of T-Mobile USA) while AT&T gets 2.25 and Verizon 1.8/4. And in San Francisco, Sprint and Verizon are neck and neck at 3.1/4 while AT&T is 1.4/4.

As an aside, I often get better reception and longer battery life by going to EDGE (turn off 3G on the iPhone). The main drawback seems to be that you can’t have internet access while making a call with EDGE, but you can with 3G.

The other thing is that they might at last ship their femtocell technology. Wow, they are sometimes so tantelizing close sometimes. OTOH, the Mifi on Verizon is working amazingly well right now.

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