AT&T Beefs Up Network, Answers Critics

Company calls race to meet demand for its mobile services "daunting task"

By Brian Curtis
|  Thursday, Jul 8, 2010  |  Updated 11:11 PM CDT
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What AT&T Is Doing to Silence Critics

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Dallas-based AT&T is racing to keep up with surging demand for mobile data services.

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What AT&T Is Doing to Silence Critics

Dallas-based AT&T is racing to keep up with surging demand for mobile data services.
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Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is racing to expand its network.

The company is coping with surging demand for its mobile services, thanks to popular products such as Apple's iPhone and iPad.  AT&T is the exclusive service provider for those devices.

"It's a daunting task," said John Donovan, AT&T's chief technology officer.

Donovan said data traffic on AT&T's network is up 5,000 percent in just three years. The company currently supports roughly half of all mobile data traffic in the United States.

Critics say AT&T hasn't done enough to keep up.

"Clearly, they never anticipated the demand," said Jerry Kaufman of Alexander Resources, a wireless industry consulting group.

Donovan is candid about AT&T's challenge.

"We are not where we'd like to be," he said.

However, Donovan is quick to point out that AT&T will spend up to $19 billion this year to expand its network. Among the improvements:

  • More fiber-optic cable to support faster 3G speeds 
  • About 2,000 new cell sites
  • Expanded Wi-Fi service

The goal is to keep up with consumers who can't seem to get enough of mobile services.

"It's become a never-ending circle of trying to play catch-up," Kaufman said.  

But AT&T is vowing to get ahead of the curve.

"We're building as much and as fast as we can," Donovan said.

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