I Almost Forgot – AT&T The Biggest Vacation Disappointment

It was my intention to totally depend on my iPhone 3Gs’s cell service for voice and data while on vacation in Las Vegas. Like everyone I’ve heard horror stories, but my service here in Connecticut is mostly good. Unfortunately, I have also documented trips to New York, Los Angeles and Boston where service was frustrating. Add Las Vegas to the list.

Often my phone would show full signal yet be unable to originate or receive calls. Stef’s BlackBerry and Helaine’s Samsung suffered a similar fate.

Data was pretty spotty too. Sometimes my phone would display “3G.” At other times it was the slower “E” or mysterious “O.” Often there was no data indicator at all! Unfortunately even seeing a data indicator didn’t mean there was access!

I ran an online speed test a few times. Once it wouldn’t work because there was no data access. Other times it was so slow as to be unusable for any purpose other than establishing how slow it was!

This is just nuts. There’s no excuse for this. Cell service is supposed to be a mature product. How can AT&T be the only company that hasn’t mastered this?

7 Responses to “I Almost Forgot – AT&T The Biggest Vacation Disappointment”

  1. Josh says:

    The ‘ ° ‘ symbol is for 1st gen GRPS cellular data the standard before ’2G’ EDGE came out. It was essentially dial-up speeds on a phone. Really rare to see it especially in an urban area. Even E is barely seen in CT although apparently it might be a cell tower trick played by the network.

    I wonder how the 4G network on AT&T will run – if it will handle the data load better… The iPhone 4G(S) coming soon will presumably be setup for this.

    Verizons upcoming iPhone is promising for their coverage, reliability, and 4G LTE network launched recently. And their unlimited data plan for smartphones is still available

  2. Eric Braun says:

    At home I’m on the “O2″ 3G network and consistently get good data rates throughout most of southeast England. I carry a Nokia N95 and not an iPhone (Ysabel has one though,) because I can use it as a data modem tying it to my laptop via Bluetooth. In Starbucks, this 3G lashup is frequently a faster data connection than their WiFi network. On trips back to the US I’ve learned to forget about mobile data. I’ve tried various carriers and none matches what I get here in the UK.

    How much does this high quality data service cost? We get 600 minutes of talk, 600 texts and UNLIMITED data for £20 GBP per month….roughly $32 at current exchange rates. And I routinely burn through 3-4GB of data in a month listening to Internet radio when I am walking, using Google maps streetview, and even watching YouTube video to pass time on the bus.

    Why the disparity? I kind of think that the FCC and Commerce Department are too friendly in their regulation US cellular companies. Competition in the US needs to be encouraged if the mobile network is going to mature.

  3. DorisC says:

    I am a fan of Verizon….never have any issues with cell service…except for a small spot on route 9….other than that, my phone seems to work just about anywhere.

  4. Rick in Putnam says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I’m in Putnam and find it REALLY odd that this part of the country, the forgotten part, gets 3G speeds. I read of at&t’s Facebook page so many areas that at&t DOESN’T have 3G and wonder about my area. Could your Vegas experience be due to network congestion?

  5. David says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I know this won’t help you now but you may want to think about switching to Verizon when the time is right. They are launching their 4G LTE network today,although you won’t be able to get a phone with 4G capabilities for about five months. Personally, I’ve never had any issues when traveling with Verizon unless traveling out of the country. In that case AT&T is the clear winner! Verizon has been rumored to be getting an iPhone, still nothing official but they have some great Android devices! I’m a little biased of course being an Android guy myself but it may be worth it for the better national network.

    Oh well, it’s not the end of the world but it would be nice if AT&T got their act together. You are completely correct in that it’s a mature industry and they shouldn’t be having these kinds of issues, especially in large metro areas! Take care and please hold the snow off for a while. Love your blog by the way!

  6. Craig says:

    Consumer Reports totally agrees with you – totally slammed AT&T in latest issue, even on the cover !!!

  7. meredith says:

    I’ll add my voice to the pro-Verizon chorus. My Palm Pre+ has a Mobile Hotspot app which allows it to provide 3G WiFi to up to 5 connected devices at a time. This means that our tour van is WiFi-enabled! So far this year, our tour has taken us to pretty much every corner of the US and so far the only place the band has been knocked offline for any length of time was in a chunk of Texas just outside Amarillo, and in southern New Mexico just outside of Hatch. The rest of the time, at a miminum there is basic 1x data, good for sending a quick email. I’ve never encountered data access issues in NYC, L.A., or Vegas.

    My one gripe with Verizon is that its network and hardware are CDMA-only. Whenever I travel overseas I have to rent a special GSM phone that is just a phone, and I go through smartphone withdrawal as soon as I step off the plane in Heathrow. (I could shell out for a World Edition Blackberry, but I would rather go without a smartphone than be stuck using one of those clunky, horrible things.) If HP would build a dual-mode Pre for Verizon, I would be a happy camper indeed.

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