The story is mostly anecdotal in nature, with some quotes from respected analysts like Chetan Sharma who could probably provide a lot more detail about the problems AT&T has. But the story — like so many others — doesn’t really challenge AT&T, especially on AT&T’s solution to the problem, which is to add more towers and use an undefined amount of spectrum at the 850 MHz band.
But our guess here — and it is just a guess since AT&T will not answer any questions about its spectrum holdings — that AT&T simply doesn’t have the spectrum depth necessary to handle the popularity of its iPhone offering. For years, service providers have gambled, necessarily, when building networks, trying to build out just enough capacity to support most of the users most of the time. But as Om notes quite lyrically, “today’s 3G networks are like glittering skyscrapers built on a foundation of matchsticks.”
The success of the iPhone and the exclusive deal has meant millions of new customers for AT&T, but you have to wonder how many of those users will stay with the carrier if the problems continue. Increasingly, AT&T’s iPhone gamble looks like a bet that may in the end cause more pain than gain for Ma Bell.