After years of coming under fire for poor network performance, particularly by users of the Apple iPhone, AT&T today is taking steps to both improve and mollify its critics — by enlisting its users’ aid with a new iPhone App that helps target network dead zones.
The new AT&T Mark the Spot app, available now for download in the iTunes App Store, enables users to quickly flag locations where they’ve experienced coverage gaps, dropped calls, poor voice quality or data performance. AT&T (NYSE: T) said the report is sent immediately to its network planning team.
“We’re applying the power of crowdsourcing to our ongoing efforts to enhance and expand our network,” AT&T CTO John Donovan said in a statement.
Donovan said that customer feedback through the app, coupled with other AT&T testing efforts “will enable us to most quickly and effectively identify trends and maximize the impact of our ongoing network investment. We encourage all customers to download and use the app.”
AT&T said it developed Mark the Spot earlier this year, and has been using it internally for several months.
The nation’s No. 2 carrier and Apple’s exclusive U.S. partner for the iPhone also said it plans to debut versions of the app for other mobile platforms in coming months.
The release of the app comes as the latest move by AT&T to address complaints and criticism over its network coverage, particular as it relates to 3G network performance.
AT&T has been working since at least earlier this year to improve its 3G service in the wake of lawsuits that maintained it and Apple misrepresented 3G network performance claims.
Today, AT&T said it is “nearly doubling” the wireless spectrum serving 3G customers in hundreds of markets across the country, and adding new cell sites and backhaul connections nationwide.
The two partners have also faced lawsuits stemming from delays in offering MMS service on the latest iPhone 3G and 3G S models.
Criticism of AT&T’s network capabilities has also given plenty of ammunition to its rivals. Verizon Wireless, for instance, has made it’s competitor’s perceived shortcomings a key focus of its recent ad campaign.
AT&T later launched its own campaign starring actor Luke Wilson to tout its own network prowess, while suing Verizon to block the it from airing ads purporting to depict the two carriers’ differences in 3G network coverage — a motion that was ultimately rejected in court and prompted a countersuit from the nation’s largest carrier.
The two carriers have since dropped their lawsuits against each other.