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Wireless Wars – Subscribers Fight Back

15 Dec

Everyone by now has seen the Verizon Ads about their chief rival, AT&T, and their lack of coverage. My personal favorite is Santa checking the Reindeer –

Needless to say, Verizons commercials have generated a great deal of angst at AT&T.

AT&T has had a chokehold on what is arguably the best cell phone in the market, the IPhone, since it’s introduction. They have been able to charge premium prices for the phone, as well as add ons for the service.  The service quality has been less than stellar, despite the premium prices. Subscribers are hopping mad – and at least some, are striking back…

Frustrated Subscribers Target AT&T

Thanks to the runaway success of the iPhone, AT&T has the largest wireless network in the country—and the lousiest. Fed-up subscribers, who pay the telco about $30 a month just for data (and another $40 or so for voice), are planning an assault this Friday called Operation Chokehold.

The idea is to cripple AT&T’s network in order to draw attention to its weakness. To do so, participating iPhone users will run data-heavy applications over AT&T’s 3G network on Friday from noon to 1 p.m. Pacific time.

The plan was apparently launched by the Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, a popular blog that satirically impersonates the Apple CEO, but Operation Chokehold has since gained steam with notices popping up on other tech blogs.

It shouldn’t take much to buckle AT&T’s network—it has trouble functioning under normal conditions. Whether the company will do anything in response is another matter. Verizon has blanketed the country in ads mocking its chief rival’s network—ads that wouldn’t be so effective if they didn’t ring true. AT&T tried to sue, but gave up in the end.

The company promised to improve its network in New York and San Francisco—two known problem areas—but don’t hold out hope. AT&T appears as if it is looking for ways to discourage users from using its product—the network—or at least charging them more, according to wireless chief Ralph de la Vega.

Is this the beginning of a new level of consumer rage, kicking back against the dubious business practices of American Corprations which over the last 20 years have become more similar to organized crime than capitalist enitities competing with better products and prices?

Wireless companies have also benefited hugely from a Bushit era Federal Communications Commission run by Michael Powell which couldn’t see a merger or acquisition that could possibly lead to a a monopoly – shrinking the number of competitors and eliminating smaller more technically inventive companies along the way (as well as a few million high-tech jobs). They have also benefited from the evisceration of the Federal Trade Commission, virtually eliminating any semblance of consumer rights, allowing draconian cancellation fees, abusive contract terms, and deceptive practices – leading to “$20,000 phone bills“.

Consumer push back?

What took so long?

Frustrated Subscribers Target AT&T

 
16 Comments

Posted by on December 15, 2009 in General

 

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16 responses to “Wireless Wars – Subscribers Fight Back

  1. t-shirts101

    December 15, 2009 at 10:50 AM

    With better and better products being offered up recently (Palm Pre, Android, and the soon-to-be-released Google Phone – said to be the best of the newcomers), the iPhone’s stranglehold will be loosening, with no help from ATT.

    I enjoy my iPhone and used it faithfully, but will give it up for something else if ATT jacks up their data fees.

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    • btx3

      December 15, 2009 at 11:14 AM

      I was involved in some of the issue surrounding the licensing (still not done) of the 700 MHz Spectrum, which several companies proposed to support Public Safety (Fire/Police/Rescue) as well as commercial service. That was a brutal scrap with hundreds of lobbyists from each of the big carriers and equipment providers on the Hill to push thing their way – and to eliminate the possibility that any little guy would squeak through the door with game changing technology.

      The Republicans acted exactly the way they are on Health Care – as well paid whores for the big companies. Which is why the spectrum sits unused today.

      I use my IPhone heavily, and find that some of the Aps are fantastic. I regularly use some of the GPS features when traveling to locate stores, eateries, and services.

      With that said – the service sucks here in the DC area, with a high number of dropped calls.

      I was a Verizon customer – but dumped them after several of those “billing surprise” incidents. Verizon’s billing system is the worst in the industry, leading to constant billing “mistakes” and “gotchas”- all, of course to the favor of the company and disfavor of the consumer. It took two years to clear a billing error on their part of near $600 on a monthly bill, despite the intervention of the FCC, Better Business Bureau, and Public Utilities Commission – getting calls from a half dozen different collection agencies 18 months AFTER Verizon had admitted the mistake and forgiven the charges.

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  2. t-shirts101

    December 15, 2009 at 11:25 AM

    Wow… that’s a real dilemma: Better coverage w/ bad billing, or poor coverage with “decent” billing practices. (I say “decent” because ATT has been kinder recently with their billing corrections, in my experience.) Coverage in the Metro-Detroit area is fair; I’ve had ATT for quite a while, and I’ve heard others say Verizon is better.

    I’m sure there’s far more than just the use of the “700 MHz Spectrum” that’s being stifled – innovatively speaking. I think the only reason Google is coming out swinging with their technological advancements is due to 1) their access to huge amounts of capital, and 2) open source (read: free) technologies. Not to mention the quality of these technologies rivals the paid alternatives.

    It will be fun to see where all this leads in 5 to 10 years. Google’s own telecom / wireless alternative company maybe?

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    • btx3

      December 15, 2009 at 12:10 PM

      The roadside of corporate America is littered with the wrecked hulks of folks who wanted to play at being telecommunications carriers – from major electric utilities such as Enron and El Paso Energy, to folks who were highly successful in other industries. A lot of folks coming from a corporate telecom environment thought they could play in that environment – are sitting by that roadside, dead and rotting as well. The entry fee to do a startup in that business is $500 – 750 million, with downstream buildout costs going to $20 billion or more.

      Making the software resident on the handset is one thing – and possibly something Google could be wildly successful at…

      IF they remember the KISS principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid!).

      The reason the IPhone is a success is ease of use, despite some tremendously sophisticated software and hardware.

      If Google finally does enter the market as a carrier…

      I’d advise selling your stock.

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  3. t-shirts101

    December 15, 2009 at 1:14 PM

    Gotcha. Software, and handsets, are one thing. Being a (traditional) carrier is quite another.

    Question: What are your thoughts regarding the (non-traditional) Internet based communication services such as Google voice? Or Skype? Vonage was popular for a while, and their are those companies that provide electronic (server / software based?) business services – Grasshopper is the best example I can think of.

    My point is that in keeping with the information you’ve shared, is it possible that innovation with alternative methods of communication may/can/will outpace the attempted control and monopoly of the big corporations?

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    • btx3

      December 15, 2009 at 4:16 PM

      A lot depends on the direction of the Obama Administration. Much of the Clinton economic explosion was based on increasing the competition level and allowing small player market entry. IF Obama’s Administration does that, we might see a real economic recovery. While it is popular among Democrats to express their concern for the blue collar workers – that isn’t what drives the economy. It’s the 3-4 million white collar professionals who are out of work that are the economic killer. If you put those people back to work, then there is money in the economy to buy the products produced by blue collar workers.

      The next major plays in telecom will be based on wireless. Right now, folks are trying to ramp up wireless infrastructure plays to provide alternatives to DSL, Cable, and Fiber. An old adage in the Telecom Industry is you can’t be successful without controlling and owning the network infrastructure. That is the major hole in the internet voice providers – and why there has been a huge market turnover of players. None of the Internet players own infrastructure, and thus are at the mercy of the carriers.

      There are three major issues. The major carriers bought a lot of spectrum which they are not using – thus preventing the emergence of alternate carriers and business models. There is some thought about forcing to sell that space back, and thus opening the market to new auctions (new players). The second issue is that during the Bushit Administration the big guys were able to effectively freeze the allocation of new spectrum, and freeze out the new technology players. The third issue is getting Wall Street off their fatcat asses and investing again. Those three factors have effectively killed the emerging technologies market in High-Tech and telecom outside of the software players.

      The technology is there (or pretty damn close). Somehow the spigot needs to get opened again.

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  4. Constructive Feedback

    December 18, 2009 at 8:04 AM

    [quote]They have been able to charge premium prices for the phone, as well as add ons for the service. The service quality has been less than stellar, despite the premium prices. Subscribers are hopping mad – and at least some, are striking back…[/quote]

    BET Uncut – you should be embarrassed by your misstatements on this issue.

    1) APPLE sets the price of the iPhone. The market price of the iPhone offered to AT&T customers is a price point that is SUBSIDIZED DOWNWARD by AT&T upon signing a service contract. It is thus illogical to blame AT&T for the “premium price” for the hardware

    2) The 700Mhz action provided over $20 BILLION into the US Treasury. If you call this “prostitution for big companies” then the Government is the JOHN

    3) Do you find it ironic that you and other “Social Justice hacks” desire to break off 700Mhz blocks for dedication to First Responders (ie: reserve spectrum for special use) while the key trend is to take back previously allocated spectrum to make a wider block of spectrum for WIRELESS IP to keep up with the demands?

    All wireless carriers have “Priority Access” technology in the labs which would allow them to leverage the cellular network ahead of consumer traffic. With this as the case – WHY IS IT LOGICAL to construct another nationwide 700Mhz network?

    Clearly it is far more practical to develop “Wireless IP Internet” and then craft a First Responder VPN over this expansive network. Why would you want to build a new set of radio towers and network backhaul?

    Next you will be telling us that we need a duplicate Interstate highway system because the fire trucks get stuck in rush hour traffic.

    4) I take it that you didn’t see the NY Times article which blamed the IPHONE rather than the AT&T Network?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/business/13digi.html

    5) I take it you didn’t see this report about who has a faster network between AT&T and Verizon?
    http://www.phoneplusmag.com/hotnews/3g-tests-show-att-faster-than-verizon.html

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    • btx3

      December 18, 2009 at 11:20 AM

      1) APPLE sets the price of the iPhone. The market price of the iPhone offered to AT&T customers is a price point that is SUBSIDIZED DOWNWARD by AT&T upon signing a service contract. It is thus illogical to blame AT&T for the “premium price” for the hardware

      Wrong again Porch Simian! The only “price” Apple sets is what it sells the Iphone to AT&T for. AT&T sets the “price” of the IPhone to the consumer (it’s how they make money, stupid!). And no – AT&T is not “subsidizing” the Phone at all, since the manufacturing cost is in the $40-50 range.

      2) The 700Mhz action provided over $20 BILLION into the US Treasury. If you call this “prostitution for big companies” then the Government is the JOHN

      That’s pretty good, the government got $20 billion for an Auction they haven’t even held yet. I think you are trying to stutter about the “C” Block portion of the Auction – which Verizon and AT&T dominated, despite having no real need for the spectrum

      3) Do you find it ironic that you and other “Social Justice hacks” desire to break off 700Mhz blocks for dedication to First Responders (ie: reserve spectrum for special use) while the key trend is to take back previously allocated spectrum to make a wider block of spectrum for WIRELESS IP to keep up with the demands?

      Niether Verizon or AT&T is stupid enough to run “Wireless IP” on this space. They will continue to run proprietary wireless protocol systems such as EVDO, which encapsulate and treat IP as nothing more than another data stream.

      All wireless carriers have “Priority Access” technology in the labs which would allow them to leverage the cellular network ahead of consumer traffic. With this as the case – WHY IS IT LOGICAL to construct another nationwide 700Mhz network?

      It’s called preemption, which is something the wireline carriers have been doing for over 50 years. And “in the lab” is a euphemism for the more non-technical speak – “the check’s in the mail”.

      The reasons you want a separate network are legion. One of the most basic, and easy to conceptually grasp is …

      “Security”. The Taliban has already taken the first step in taking control of Predator Drones (even someone as stupid as you are might be able to figure out why that is a bad thing) through one or more access points in the IP Network, allowing them to actually view the video download real-time on their Al Quaeda DSL. Now if the Military can’t protect their “IP” network from some folks with not much more than 2 PCs and a Satellite Dish – WTF is going to be stupid enough to let some asswipe ignorant uneducated moron like yourself try and protect the “National Jewels”.

      Clearly it is far more practical to develop “Wireless IP Internet” and then craft a First Responder VPN over this expansive network. Why would you want to build a new set of radio towers and network backhaul?

      What Zip Code of stupid did you come from to believe you need (or even want) wireline backhaul in this sort of network?

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      • Constructive Feedback

        December 18, 2009 at 9:38 PM

        Oh my goodness. I am stunned that you put some of your points into words.

        The only “price” Apple sets is what it sells the Iphone to AT&T for. AT&T sets the “price” of the IPhone to the consumer (it’s how they make money, stupid!). And no – AT&T is not “subsidizing” the Phone at all, since the manufacturing cost is in the $40-50 range.

        Please read this report and tell me HOW iPhone sales that were greater than anticipated hurt the AT&T Earnings due to SUBSIDIES?
        http://moconews.net/article/419-earnings-att/

        Seriously – IF this was an EXPENSE…….WHO GOT THE MONEY BET Uncut? Did they pay THEMSELVES? If you don’t see how this refutes your claim you are blind.

        Niether Verizon or AT&T is stupid enough to run “Wireless IP” on this space. They will continue to run proprietary wireless protocol systems such as EVDO, which encapsulate and treat IP as nothing more than another data stream.

        You said that Verizon and AT&T don’t ‘NEED’ any of the 700Mhz spectrum? Why did they pay $20 billion for it then?

        Think about it – IF the current FCC Chair says that ‘we need MORE spectrum dedicated for cellular wireless’ as he is aware of the coming expansion of demand – who is clueless? You or he?

        Both Verizon and AT&T plan to run LTE over this 700Mhz spectrum. They will leave their CDMA2000 / WideBand CDMA (in the case of AT&T) intact and deploy 4G on the 700Mhz.

        LTE IS WIRELESS IP!!!!
        Where as the present 3G protocols have a centralized controller (a GGSN in the case of GSM/HSPA) which terminates the IP session from the Internet and then uses cellular protocols to the handheld……LTE is a CORE IP NETWORK!!! Every intermediate box in the network has an IP interface. The wireless radio has an intrinsic IP ADDRESS. This is a new ball game.

        LTE’s standard is DATA ONLY at this point. They have not yet defined the native voice protocol so for now it will been VoIP!!! Not Circuit Switched voice.

        I realize that you “step in it” on occasion. This time you are walking on my turf and you need to check the bottom of your shoe. That is where the deer have fertilized my lawn where you stepped.

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      • btx3

        December 19, 2009 at 2:14 PM

        Uhhhhhh … Not exactly, Porch – you missed:

        AT&T said $0.07 of the EPS came from its iPhone subsidies, as well as hurricane related expenses and forex impacts. and Wireless data revenues grew strongly again, surging 51.2 percent from Q4 2007 to $3.1 billion.

        AT&T sets the price they wish to sell the IPhone at lower than the manufacturing cost…

        It ain’t my problem they chose to hire stupid marketing people.

        Their problem is this:

        Wireless revenues came in at $12.9 billion, while the wireline business contracted 3.3 percent to $17 billion.

        You quested – “You said that Verizon and AT&T don’t ‘NEED’ any of the 700Mhz spectrum? Why did they pay $20 billion for it then?”

        Because not to, meant that a player like Cyren Call, run by the co-founder of Nextel would have emerged as a competitor as a national carrier.

        LTE is a CORE IP NETWORK!!!

        It’s a DATA Network, which in today’s terms means transporting IP. HOWEVER, the over the air protocol is orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing access (OFDMA), which really doesn’t give a shit whether the data (in your case IP) is IP or not. The “intermediate boxes” are IP – only because that is what the network is transporting at Layer 3 and 4 to access the Internet. The Network is perfectly happy transporting any other protocol I want it to – including antiques like IBM-SNA, just like fiber – whether I’m running SONET based infrastructure or not.

        Suggest you go back to the OSI Reference Model, in Telecom 101…

        And take the course again, and again – until you get a grasp of basic telecom principles.

        The only thing “New” about it is OFDMA’s ability to be 1) massively more efficient at bandwidth utilization than the 3G Air Protocols, and 2) it’s ability to set up full-duplex streams dynamically across multiple segments of the available spectrum – a technology developed in the UltraWideband space nearly 10 years ago, allowing speeds in excess of 2 Gbs.

        As to the “voice protocol” – it likely will be IP, not because it’s a good solution, but because it preserves the existing IP infrastructure already built by many carriers – AND, handsets are getting smart enough to include circuits to “groom” the IP data stream to eliminate some of the protocol-bandwidth waste and other issues AND to provide the interface to the over-the-air protocol which IP can’t do.

        Try and keep up!

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  5. Constructive Feedback

    December 18, 2009 at 8:11 AM

    How did I forget the last irony?

    You report the intentional “Denial Of Service” conspiracy by irate network users YET you support “Network Neutrality”?

    You tacitly admit that with wireless networks being SHARED RESOURCES (shared spectrum) that they are indeed vulnerable to purposeful attacks.

    Why shouldn’t a wireless carrier be able to do traffic management/traffic shaping in instances of congestion?

    A nerd that pays $50 per month IS NOT going to be allowed to do high def streaming in which his one stream is going to consume an undue amount of radio resources upon a multi-million dollar TOWER!!!

    Thank you “Social Justice Telecommunications Operatives”!!! You made my case for me.

    Like

     
    • btx3

      December 18, 2009 at 10:45 AM

      Uhhhhh… Porch… Wireless Service has nothing to do with “Net Neutrality”, moron. The two are, in many cases totally separate networks, utilizing two totally separate technologies. Here’s a clue – The Wireless network provides cell phone service. It is not the Internet, although some of the data functions ride over a portion of the Internet. Some carriers use VOIP – however they are not carrying Internet traffic for morons like yourself on those networks. Other services such as SMS Messaging or to put it in non-technical terms you might understand – “Text Messaging”, often don’t ride over, or use the Internet at all – they ride over the SS7 Network (look it up).

      Two – The Cell Carriers don’t share anything, other than Tower locations which they lease from a 3rd Party. The equipment is incompatible, as is the underlying air protocol system – which is why your AT&T Phone won’t work on Verizon and vice versa.

      Third – Towers are cheap, typically running from $25,000 to about $250,000 for the really tall ones – not “millions”. Often there is no “tower” at all, Cell Phone companies renting space like Church Steeples and roof space on tall buildings. What is expensive is the manpower to intall and maintain the base station equipment, backhaul, and other systems which support the network, and make it possible for you to talk to other users on other networks… And, in the case of large carriers – the greater number of towers needed to serve high density areas.

      Do try and take a telecom 101 course to alleviate that gross ignorance!

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      • Constructive Feedback

        December 18, 2009 at 9:41 PM

        Wireless Service has nothing to do with “Net Neutrality”, moron.

        BET Uncut – you need to listen to what your leftist buddies are TRYING to do. Not what you know to be the case about the technology world.

        You had better believe that the same people who seek “Net Neutrality” upon the wired Internet backbone seek “Net Neutrality” on the Wireless networks!!!!!

        Did you see the attempts to add Net Neutrality provisions to the rural broadband Federal funding – INCLUDING wireless?

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      • btx3

        December 19, 2009 at 3:29 PM

        Two kinds of wireless from a regulatory standpoint in the US, Porch. The kind you are used to with cell phones – and “fixed” wireless which competes with wireline DSL.

        “Net Neutrality” applies to fixed wireless, moron – because it competes directly with wireline internet.

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  6. Constructive Feedback

    February 28, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    The key is to KNOW when you don’t have a clue, not just to prove it:

    AT&T Trounces Competitors in 3G Speed Tests done by PC Week
    http://www.benzinga.com/press-releases/b140074/pc-world-completes-13-city-test-of-3g-wireless-performance

    Like

     
    • btx3

      February 28, 2010 at 9:56 AM

      Thay’s nice, Porch – My iPhones thank you for that hard work at something useful for a change. So THAT’s why you haven’t been polluting the boards as much as usual…

      That call center has been awfully busy!

      Like

       

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