Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Believe ATT 3G Coverage Maps

The reason I don't already have an iPhone is that AT&T doesn't have 2G coverage in my home. The AT&T coverage maps show "best" 2G coverage at my house but just next door is an area of few blocks showing one level down "good" coverage. Best means I should get indoor coverage, good means probably not, just outdoor and in-car coverage. People with iPhones barely get one bar in my house but 3 bars on the front step. I currently have a Verizon cell phone and get 4 bars at home, inside, no problem.

So I've been waiting for the 3G iPhone, because the 3G coverage maps show solid blue all around me, for at least 3 miles in any direction. A friend got a new 3G iPhone this morning and came by this afternoon. He gets 3G coverage at his home about 1.5 miles from me, so his phone does work. But not at my house. Nope, no 3G coverage inside or outside my house and the same barely 1 bar crappy 2G reception inside. So much for that new plastic back giving better reception.

The 3G coverage map doesn't seem to show gradations of coverage, just blue or not. The fine print says: "Actual coverage area may differ substantially from map graphics, and coverage may be affected by such things as terrain, weather, foliage, buildings and other construction, signal strength, customer equipment and other factors. AT&T does not guarantee coverage."

A number of friends have asked if I really need cell phone coverage at home and it really just makes sense to me. I do have a landline but if someone calls my cell I want to get the call. And it's not like I'm out in an office all day, I'm often home.

So I called AT&T Sales at 1-888-333-6651 and got a remarkably helpful person. Seriously. He looked at his (better) coverage map and said there were six 3G capable towers within a 1.5 mile radius of my home. He even gave me the street intersections of two of them (I had guessed where one was). He said 2 of the 6 had some maintenance issues but all 6 showed they were working. He didn't know what the problem could be. He forwarded me on to tech support to see if they had more detailed info but, while they were trying, they didn't have any. If I were a customer they could open a maintenance case but not being one, they had nothing to open it against.

So now I have to wait. This could be a temporary problem (though they have no reason to suspect so) or there could be some obstruction between me and the 6 separate towers. That seems unlikely to me as the area is relatively flat. I'll have my friend over again to see if he gets reception. If so, great. If not, I'm not sure what to do. It's not like they will continue building out towers in the area, towers are already here. It doesn't make sense to me to get an iPhone to call in a maintenance problem immediately so they can figure out what's wrong.

Grrrrrr.

Oh and of course otherwise the new iPhone seems great. It's fit in your hand is even nicer and Google maps had no problem pinpointing my location (I assume via GPS) from inside my living room. But the Yelp app didn't list any restaurants or bars nearby which is completely untrue (and they list many on their web site).

Update: Based on a photo here, I now believe the new iPhone found my location using Skyhook's system, not GPS).

10 comments:

Stopher said...

I wish they had some better maps too. They just put a tower on my apartment buildings roof. It dramatically cured all my reception problems. I had assumed it would also give 3G coverage but my phone is only showing EDGE. I'm DEEP in a blue zone on the map but I'm feeling like I've been conned into paying 15 bucks more for the same service.

grahams said...

Yelp magically started working later that day... They must have been having some issues...

Megs said...

Foliage? That's a bit much. Some lawyers had lots of fun writing that disclaimer.

Howard said...

It is true that different radio frequencies have different properties. Some go through buildings easily, some don't. Some are blocked by brick, others not. Some are blocked by tree, others not so much. With the switch to digital TV coming in the US, the FCC auctioned off some of the UHF spectrum. Telecoms bid billions for them since they pass through buildings easily. But yeah, I still don't know what's blocking the 3G.

Karl said...

If you're just worried about coverage at home, have you thought about mounting a repeater or one of the other fixed antenna solutions?

I mean how can you get by without an iPhone?

Howard said...

Yeah, how can I survive w/o an iPhone? I've seen repeaters for $250-350 that do 2G and 3G. We tested again yesterday and there was 3G outside my house. Given my landlords sensitivities (see the FiOS installation posts) I"m not sure what mounting technique he'd approve. I'm also not sure if I want to spend that much for a repeater.

I"m curious what is blocking my reception in my house. The siding is vinyl. I know the walls in the kitchen at least are dry wall. So I'm not sure what is causing the interference.

Anonymous said...

Why do you need 3G in your house, don't you have a wireless router at home? I got my Iphone on Friday and when I was in my hammock, not getting a call from you on my birthday Sunday, I was browsing the web but using the wireless router on the other side of the house. You need the 3G when your away from home.

The phone is great

Howard said...

I want to receive cellular calls when I'm at home. That doesn't happen over wifi.

BTW, Happy Birthday. Subtle.

Karl said...

So, could you use a service such as vonage to get calls on your phone using WiFi?

Howard said...

I don't believe such apps exist for the phone (yet).