AT&T’s epic iFail at CES


It’s the world’s largest consumer electronics show. Android phones are being unveiled almost by the minute, it seems, while Apple doesn’t even have a booth at this show (and never has). A large bulk of this show is literally built on competing with Apple’s products.

And iPhone users can’t use their phones.

Washington Post blogger Cecilia Kang noted that many iPhone users she’s met at CES cannot use their phones on AT&T’s clogged-like-Homer-Simpson’s-arteries network.

Kelly Vaughn of Wireless Dealer Magazine spoke of spending 15 futile minutes trying to refresh her e-mail on her iPhone. Even better, Jason Oxman, senior vice president of the Consumer Electronics Association, the group that puts on the show, said he could not send out some tweets to Twitter.

AT&T didn’t return Kang’s request for comments. Can you blame them?

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless’s CTO Dick Lynch said in an interview that they weren’t experiencing any problems with their network in Las Vegas.

AT&T has made the excuse that its New York and San Francisco coverage were impacted because those particular networks needed upgrading. Las Vegas was never mentioned. Granted, there are 110,000 people in Sin City for this show and no doubt quite a few are armed with iPhones, but really, could AT&T lose more face?

You have to hand it to Apple and its ability to build brand loyalty. Despite the nifty new Android phones like Droid and Nexus One, there still isn’t a mass exodus of iPhone users. If there was, AT&T’s network might be less congested.

But no, they know enough to separate the network from the equipment. They are being patient and biding their time, waiting for the word that will undoubtedly come this summer. Count me among them. I’ve played around with a colleague’s Droid and a Nexus One we scored from the launch, but for now, I’ll wait until summer as well.

Lynch told Kang that Verizon maintains a buffer of capacity that exceeds what customer demand on the network at any point, and it adds more capacity when customer usage demands it. “This is a very simple concept and something we have done religiously over the year,” he said.

Let’s hope he’s ready for the stampede to rival the Oklahoma Land Rush when his company launches the Verizon iPhone.

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