John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

AT&T: “We’re Closing the Gap” in New York and San Francisco

AT&T’s overtaxed network has been the subject of considerable negative attention recently. No surprise, then, that the network figured prominently during the company’s earnings call this morning. The carrier everyone loves to hate would like us all to know that it’s making progress in New York City and San Francisco, two high-volume markets with equally high-volume complaints about AT&T’s (T) wireless service.

“Given our high smartphone numbers, double our closest peer, in both markets, we have large population centers, very sophisticated users with high expectations, and very high volumes,” John Stankey, president and CEO, AT&T Operations said during the call.

“For example, in the dense areas of New York City, there are periods during the week when nearly 70% of the devices active on the network are data-intensive handsets. So, raising performance levels in these two markets is the organization’s top priority. We’re putting all the resources available against the issue and we’re closing the gap.”

Okay, great. What does that mean? Between $18 billion and $19 billion in 2010 capital expenditures–approximately $2 billion of it for additional wireless network and back-haul investment, for one thing. For another, 2,000 new cell sites. Finally, the company is upgrading existing cell sites with fiber for better 3G speeds.

Now, a few more NYC-SF specifics from Stankey:

We’re adding third and fourth radio network carriers to maximize capacity on available spectrum. In Manhattan specifically, now that we have scalable cell site controllers in place throughout most of the island, we’re intensely focused on putting more radio capacity on the street. We’ll increase the amount of 3G spectrum and radio capacity by one-third in high volume areas of the island by the end of the first quarter.

While we are through the majority of our zoning challenges in the Bay area, we’ll continue to work the remaining issues we have in parts of the Financial District and a handful of other locations to final resolution. We’re adding cell towers; and over the coming months, we’re building and upgrading high-capacity antenna systems to boost performance in high-traffic areas like stadiums, convention centers, and public transportation routes.

So will be see significant improvement in both markets in the coming months? Perhaps. Certainly, AT&T is suggesting we can expect one. And, as Stankey noted this morning, “Today a dollar in wireless investment yields twice the capacity than it did a year ago.” Let’s hope so–especially in markets like New York and San Francisco.