Wake up AT&T: Prayer is not an effective capacity planning and service assurance method
Submitted by trent on Sun, 12/20/2009 - 10:02
I've watched with amusement these past few weeks as the marketing folks at Verizon finally figured out what I've personally known for the last year, and captured it in their "coverage maps" campaign. In summary, Verizon coverage is awesome while AT&T coverage completely sucks. Way-to-go Verizon marketing geniuses!
I know this, because in September 2008 Applied Trust moved all of its staff onto the iPhone platform as our corporate mobile communications device. I am the first to admit that my iPhone plays music really well... Apple-quality well. And I do like that. And I guess having an iPhone somehow makes me "more cool." But as a functional cellphone for business communications, it's a nightmare. Oh, and sometimes SMS messages arrive a day or two late, missing the typical SMS 60-second SLA by 2+ orders of magnitude.
I am not alone. Boulder technology pillar Brad Feld took up the cause of poor AT&T coverage in Boulder, and within a day dozens of Boulderites crawled out of the woodwork to pinpoint specific datapoints about coverage problems that AT&T should already know. Or would know if they tried to use a phone on their network in Boulder even once.
Last night, I finally saw the new AT&T ad on this topic. It shows actor Luke Wilson illustrating how downloads are faster on the AT&T network (vs. Verizon). While that may be true, it completely misses the point that if you have no coverage at all (as is often the case on the AT&T network), it makes no difference how "fast" their network is. This makes me angry.
I am angry because AT&T is both completely out-of-touch with its customers, and seems to have completely lost any sense of reason when it comes to capacity planning and service assurance. Recently I was at a party where I had the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with an AT&T network engineer, who pointed out that AT&T still today is the "carrier of last resort" for US national long distance service (this is a holdover from the Bell System divestiture of the early 1980's). How does AT&T plan to meet capacity requirements if it were forced to provide such transport services? I'll omit the technical details which I'm certain are proprietary, but the thumbnail sketch is that it includes a lot of hand waving and "prayer." It appears that this, along with a bunch of marketing spin, is AT&T's strategy for its wireless network as well.
Regardless of your religious affiliation (or lack thereof), I'm reasonably certain that no current-day god, goddess, deity, or other worship system includes a division that performs divine service assurance and capacity planning. Wake up, AT&T. Real service assurance and capacity planning requires a) significant quantitative technical analysis and planning and b) significant capital investment. The rest of us in IT can learn an important lesson from this.
As for me, when our internal agreement to use iPhones at Applied Trust expires in September, 2010, I'm going to be leading the charge to jump to a different carrier. Loudly.