AT&T touts network improvements under hail of criticism

AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) touted the enhancements it made to its networks in the first half of 2010, noting it has poured more than $8.2 billion into its wired and wireless networks. The company also sent out a letter to customers boasting of its network quality and its plans to continue improving it, though that was met with a flood of negative comments on the company's Facebook page.

The nation's second largest carrier--which plans to spend between $18 billion and $19 billion on capital expenditures in 2010--said that in the first half of the year it added 600 new cell sites, upgraded 925 cell sites to 3G services and deployed more than 6,500 additional radio carriers and 32 Distributed Antenna Systems.

AT&T plans to begin deploying LTE in 2011, and in the meantime is readying a nationwide HSPA+ upgrade for this year, which AT&T executives have said will be able to deliver real-world download speeds of 7 Mbps. In the meantime, the carrier continues to upgrade  backhaul to cell sites it has upgraded to HSPA 7.2 technology.

An AT&T spokeswoman declined to answer specific questions about the company's network improvements.

In its letter to customers, AT&T noted many of those network enhancements. The company invited customers to share their feedback via Facebook--and many did, sharing stories of negative experiences and a lack of coverage. Some customers though did pipe up with support for the carrier.

AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom told TechCrunch that the company appreciates all feedback, whether positive or negative. "We engage with customers all day every day on Facebook," he said. "We don't delete comments, we answer questions and complaints directly and honestly, and we have a separate team of customer service managers who engage one-on-one with customers who post specific problems." In July, AT&T CTO John Donovan said the company would move "heaven and Earth" in order to meet the data demands of its customers.

AT&T is not the only one on the move, however. T-Mobile USA plans to cover 100 major metropolitan areas--200 million people--with HSPA+ by year-end. The nation's fourth largest carrier currently has around 55 markets and 100 million POPs covered with HSPA+. Additionally, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ)--AT&T's chief rival--is planning to launch 25-30 commercial LTE markets covering 100 million POPs in the fourth quarter. Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) also is busy expanding it mobile WiMAX network; the company currently has 49 markets with 51 million POPs covered, and plans to expand to 80 markets with 120 million POPs by year-end.

For more:
- see this Computerworld article
- see this TechCrunch post
- see this DSL Reports post
- see this Phone+ Magazine post

Related Articles:
Donovan: AT&T will move 'heaven and Earth' to address data demand
Lowenstein's View: What AT&T should be saying to its subscribers
AT&T refreshing backhaul efforts for LTE
AT&T's Stankey defends carrier's pace on HSPA+, LTE moves