The AT&T Mystery? Oh Come On…

December 29th, 2009 by · 7 Comments

This one gets classified in the 'You know nothing is happening when...'  folder.  Here I am scanning the meager news and blog articles out there, and what do I find?  Article after article about a mysterious gap of a few hours in the ability to buy an iPhone in New York City via AT&T's website.  The instant conclusion?  That AT&T's network in NYC must be being crushed under the weight of data traffic so badly that the company had to stop selling them.  The evidence?  None of any sort.

That's right, there were no new reports of congestion and there was no actual suspension of sales.  There was no stoppage of selling iPhones at any other locations like Apple's online or retail stores, or even AT&T's retail stores.  The entire idea that they would try to manage congestion this way is so boneheaded from an engineering point of view that it boggles the mind.  This was probably actually a simple outage somewhere on AT&T's sales site, possibly an inventory problem or simply a misconfiguration due to human error when changing which zip codes are hooked up to what.  I'll bet AT&T management didn't say anything about it because they didn't even know about it, and were trying to figure out which of their myriads of employees tripped over the extension cord or whatever.  Mysterious?  Hardly.

The media - both blogosphere and traditional outlets - have been getting downright just a tad aggressive lately haven't they?  I hope they ease back a little on the iPhone frenzy next year, I don't think I can take 365 more days in a row of hand wringing over their network congestion problems.  But it's not just the iPhone of course, do we really need to know each and every sponsor that is thinking about considering cutting back on its relationship with Tiger Woods and why?

Categories: ILECs, PTTs · Wireless

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7 Comments So Far


  • carlk says:

    Not unless T, or the sponsors in Woods’ case, “believe” injecting a message into the minds of their all important “consumers,” is the right course of action for recurring sales.

    Engineers who build space shuttles to the moon without regard to cost, may or may not understand this but, “It’s the sales, stupid!”

    In the world of marketing, “mass perception” becomes “reality.”

    I’ll be interested in seeing whether or not your lack of concern for T’s network is truth or fiction, however. It may be that, there’s a little bit of both in each assumption. 🙂

  • DaveRusin says:

    It’s called a “spike” after all sorts of people activated their phones after Christmas … in industry terms it’s about call blocking based upon Poisson table distribution.

    Have not heard of any cities smaller than NYC or LA having such problems.

    As long as you have TDM in the mix – like at the edge of the network, you will have access “spike” problems.

    • Rob Powell says:

      That would explain a network congestion event, but this was a sales website event! If there was a spike due to the activations of iphones sold, just how would making people go to apple’s site instead of AT&T’s site for a few hours make any difference at all?

      I don’t doubt that AT&T’s network in NYC is under stress. What I doubt is that this sales blip has anything at all to do with it.

  • carlk says:

    Robert, you might want to call these pundits who are attempting to state facts while affecting mass psychology in the form of perception. After all, saving T REX from extinction after decades of sub par performance, horrific capital allocation skills for positioning the company, complete and utter mismanagement predicated almost exclusively upon their legislative might, should be the goal of all great engineers like yourself.

    AT&T resumes iPhone sales in New York 12/29 08:08 AM

    AT&T (T:…) , which resumed iPhone sales in the New York area, has found the smart phone’s demand for data is overwhelming its system, an industry researcher said.
    The company’s Web site suspended sales of the iPhone Dec. 27 for anyone requesting a phone using an area code from the greater New York area. But sales were resumed the next day, BusinessWeek reported Tuesday.
    AT&T (T:…) issued only a vague statement on why sales had stopped, saying in an e-mail, “we periodically modify our promotions and distribution channels.”
    But Rich Doherty, head of research firm Envisioneering Group, said, “clearly AT&T (T:…) is struggling with quality-of-service concerns.”
    AT&T (T:…) has not maintained complete silence over its concerns. In early December, AT&T Mobility President Ralph de la Vega said the carrier was working on improving service in New York and San Francisco — areas of concentrated demand.
    This week, an AT&T (T:…) employee told Consumerist that “it lacked a sufficient number of cell towers to meet the heavy data demands imposed upon the network by iPhone users.”

  • Teresa says:

    Well–as an avid iPhone fan (one who stood in the line day 1 in the rain), I must say that the only place that I want to THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW is in NYC, where the service stinks to high heaven, as my grandmother would say. It’s no wonder people have such insane thoughts about the ATT behind the scenes plot to stop selling them. It’s funny on one hand but sad on the other–as New Yorkers (whom I only am related to by heart and frequent travels) have the worst coverage on that phone ever. So, let silly rumors fly as they may–and let someone from ATT understand they have a serious problem there.

  • Disgruntled in Denver says:

    It is such a horrible phone that we iphone owners try to rationalize how the voice service can be so terrible by making up conspiracy theories. The fact is it just sucks as a phone (and text messaging is inoperable a lot for me too).

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