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CTIA: Blame data, not AT&T, for the network, CTO says

Don’t believe the bad press, AT&T CTO claims data growth is to blame for network problems, not AT&T

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – AT&T (NYSE:T) has gotten beat up in the press for poor coverage and iPhone data overload and it’s not that Chief Technology Officer Jon Donovan hasn’t noticed, he just isn’t concerned. Despite what some think, the company has its customers at heart. Donovan’s message today was blame the incredible surge in data – not AT&T – for problems in the network.

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“For those of you thinking I’m ignoring our criticisms, I’ve read the blogs and I monitor Twitter occasionally…But I don’t plan our network based on blogs,” Donovan told Keynote attendees today. “I plan it based on the needs of our wireless customers. We are working incredibly hard to make that experience a great one. We understand the wireless data customer better than any other.”

AT&T has more smartphone users to account for than any carrier too, Donovan said, and its data traffic has grown exponentially as a result. Wireless packet data has grown 18 times in the last two and a half years while voice merely doubled, he said. AT&T has been addressing these issues with 2008 being an unprecedented year for investment. The carrier has invested more than $38 billion in the past two years to enhance its wireless and wired network infrastructure, he said. Music applications like Pandora on the iPhone have been among the highest traffic drivers, but it’s not an iPhone-only story.

“I know you are thinking iPhone and you are partly right, but only partly,” Donovan said. AT&T has also added a slew of new devices, including netbooks and navigation devices, as well as popular applications like email, Facebook and Twitter, he said.

The growth in data has clearly be an issue for AT&T’s network, but the carrier has also been slower than some of its competitors, such as Verizon, in moving to a more robust 4G long-term evolution network to help solve the problem. Donovan said he wasn’t worried about this either. There aren’t even LTE devices planned for 2010, he said, while 19 will be online by 2011. Donovan said AT&T is testing LTE in its labs next year and will begin deployments in 2011 using its 700 Megahertz spectrum exclusively for the 4G service. “If you are questioning if AT&T will be left behind our competitors who are in a rush, the answer is no,” he said, adding that a rich network without devices is not credible.

“As we move to LTE, AT&T’s market timing will be ripe,” Donovan said. “We are going to hit the sweet spot in worldwide subscriber growth and device availability….At the end of the day, it’s all about the customers.”

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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