bold / network robustness issues / any breakthroughs
i'll confess i'm going to go ahead and grab a bold on 11-4 (or as soon before or after 11-4 as it might work out that i can), but with the new official launch date announced, i wondered if the alleged network issues had been completely (or mostly) resolved (or resolved at all). i would speculate whatever the issues were, at&t satisfied itself the bold would be ready for prime time by launch date. i found the piece (partially...) pasted below, and it goes on to give some somewhat encouraging information. my question: has anyone heard of any kind of techy breakthough (made either within rim or at&t or both) that sounds like particularly good news everyone can feel good about (understanding of course there are no certainties in lfe, much less the handheld world!). thx
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Blackberry Bold: Challenged to Deliver on Its Full Potential
posted by Jim Courtney @ 10/14/2008 05:27:00 AM
Over the past five weeks I have had the opportunity to work with the Blackberry Bold on the Rogers network, including a week in California where I used it on AT&T's network. While it has provided significant performance improvements over my previous 8820 and has several applications that just are not available for the iPhone, I still had the feeling I was running with late beta stage or release candidate firmware. The availability of a new firmware release over the past weekend has changed that feeling. But its U.S. release on AT&T has also been dogged by 3G network robustness issues.
Let me put some of these issues in perspective, incorporating my own experience with the Bold on both networks.
There are two major technical issues related to the Bold:
Network robustness issues at AT&T
Firmware issues that have possibly resulted in suspension of deliveries at Orange (and reports of inventory shortages at other carriers)
First, to cover the AT&T network robustness issues:
as reported in RIM's second-quarter report, 60 carriers in 29 countries have launched the Bold, including Canada where I've had a Bold running on Rogers for the past five weeks.
several recent news reports have reported on network robustness issues as a contributor to the delayed launch on AT&T: Globe and Mail, TMCNet, CrunchGear
a personal indicator: on a recent trip to California both my Blackberry Bold and iPhone 3G found an "EDGE" signal on AT&T more often than it found a 3G signal (in spite of setting the Bold to only operate on 3G). On the Rogers network I find the "3G" signal (in supported urban areas, such as Toronto and Montreal) more than 95 percent of the time.
I have to conclude, combining these issues, that the AT&T network robustness issues are real and serve as a threat to RIM's ability to penetrate the U.S. market via the Bold. On the other hand the pending launch of Blackberry Storm at Verizon may become RIM's primary route to to the U.S. market for their 3G smartphones, given Verizon's reputation for, and experience with, 3G networks along with their extensive customer base. (Why else would several of my U.S.-based blogging colleagues attending the recent IT Expo all be running their laptops on Verizon for Internet connectivity with no complaints?)
Five weeks' experience with the Bold tells me about its firmware:
AT&T's 3G network is no doubt in trouble. The iPhone helped with that (amount of data consumed vs. network availability). It's a problem.
I have the ATT Bold and Iphone 3g here in San Fran and they both switch from 3g to edge a lot. Its ATTs network. It suc**
3G Phones Exposing Networks’ Last-Gen Technology
Published: March 13, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — Oh, the things modern mobile phones can do. They are music-playing, video-taking, direction-providing multimedia powerhouses. But many people have trouble getting them to perform their most basic functions, like making phone calls.
Apple’s iPhone 3Gs on display last July in Salt Lake City. “The iPhone and the carriers are shoving 3G down our throats,” said one analyst. “But the actual experience has been abysmal.”
Disguised or not, cellphone towers often carry a patchwork of network upgrades.
The underlying problem, industry analysts say, is the complex quilt of the nation’s wireless networks. The major mobile carriers have spent tens of billions of dollars on new voice and data networks that they advertise as superfast wireless express lanes. But analysts say these upgrades present major engineering challenges, and the networks often underperform.
The resulting technological glitches have given many owners of fancy new phones the urge to throw them out the window and onto the highway.
For many, the iPhone has become a symbol of the gap between the promise of a powerful device and the reality of inconsistent service. Its owners complain of continual hiccups, particularly in certain cities.
AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, says it has done a lot to improve its network, and is doing more. Last Tuesday, the company announced plans to invest around $11 billion this year to expand and improve its wireless and broadband networks.
“I’m not minimizing the frustration somebody may feel, but I think the improvements in wireless in this country have been extraordinary,” said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T. “It’s come a long, long way.”
For some AT&T customers, more improvements to the company’s so-called 3G, or third-generation, high-speed network can’t happen soon enough. And industry analysts say the problems at all carriers are becoming more glaring as the growing popularity of so-called smartphones puts pressure on their networks.
“The iPhone and the carriers are shoving 3G down our throats,” said Edward Snyder, an industry analyst with Charter Equity Research. “But the actual experience has been abysmal.”
Overall customer satisfaction with cellphone service has been rising, but it varies among cities and carriers. Verizon customers tend to be happiest with their service, while AT&T and Sprint customers were less satisfied, according to a survey published in Consumer Reports magazine in January. Bob Goodson, 28, the chief executive of a start-up in San Francisco, upgraded in January from a 2G iPhone to a 3G version. On the whole he is very pleased, he said, but his experience varies widely based on what part of the country he is in.
During a recent two-week trip to New York, he said, the coverage was far inferior to what he experiences in California, and made it tough for him to use the map function to get directions.
“I found myself walking around Manhattan frustrated,” Mr. Goodson said. “It couldn’t hang on to the network.”
Even when the network is within reach, its speeds are often not what they should be. A Gartner research report released in January found that data speeds for mobile phone users are often half of what is advertised by the carriers. The most glaring problem, Gartner found, is at AT&T.
“AT&T is constantly falling below the threshold,” said Ken Dulaney, a mobile computing analyst for Gartner, who said he had heard from three of Gartner’s major corporate clients in the last three months that their employees were frustrated with AT&T’s service. “I can’t say that Verizon is trouble-free, but we’ve heard fewer complaints.”
The reasons for the trouble are complicated. Part of the problem is that the companies are constantly upgrading their networks — creating a patchwork of technology on cell towers, and integrating slices of radio spectrum that carry voice and data transmissions.
Analysts said the problem was not unique to AT&T, but was especially pronounced on its network in some cities because of the way its infrastructure was built.
AT&T began introducing its 3G network in 2005, upgrading the equipment and antennas at many of its 40,000 cell towers nationwide. It built the network to complement and take advantage of the technology servicing its older 2G or second-generation network. Many phones still use the 2G network, so it must be kept running.
But there are important differences between the 2G and 3G networks, and getting them to work together presents problems, according to engineers who work on the infrastructure.
Take, for instance, the difference in the way voice and data traffic is carried on the two networks. On AT&T’s 2G network, cellphone towers — even ones in close proximity to one another — use different chunks of the radio spectrum to carry information. As phone users move around on foot or in a car, their phones switch from one frequency to another.
On the 3G network, all of the cell towers use the same frequency to transmit information. On its face, this would seem to make things simpler. But this technology also adds a wrinkle: when phones get too close to too many 3G towers using the same frequency, they can become overwhelmed with radio noise.
“When you have more than three cell sites overlapping, you get interference,” said one infrastructure engineer who works for AT&T, who asked not to be named so as not to upset the company. “You get bad quality, funky sounds. If you’re doing data, the rates get slower and slower until you lose it.”
Kristin S. Rinne, senior vice president of architecture and planning for AT&T, said the company had done a good job of diminishing the prospect of such interference by limiting the strength of signals from overlapping towers. Moreover, she said, the phones themselves have a role to play; some handsets, she said, do a good job of managing the interference internally, while others do not.
“The chipset inside the handset impacts how adaptable it is,” Ms. Rinne said. She declined to discuss the iPhone’s performance.
The iPhone, of course, is not perfect. Mr. Dulaney of Gartner said the phone did not communicate with the data network as efficiently as it could — which is a problem for a phone whose owners are among the heaviest users of mobile data.
Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPod and iPhone product marketing at Apple, said the phone was plenty fast. “We’ve shown it’s faster than any competitive phone doing Internet browsing,” he said.
There are other, broader technical challenges that affect all carriers as they move to the faster networks — both 3G and, coming soon, 4G.
The newer networks are designed to carry bigger chunks of data so that, for example, people can use their phones to send and receive videos and not just e-mail or text messages. These larger chunks are not able to travel as far before degrading, however. That presents a serious problem, because carriers cannot easily erect hundreds of new towers to be closer to users.
Today’s cellphone users often just learn to live with the glitches. Rebecca Hwang, 29, a San Franciscan who has had a 2G iPhone since December 2007, said her calls were cut off periodically and she did not receive 30 percent of her text messages. But she is still a fan of the phone.
“I love the camera, the music is great, I use the GPS and map all the time,” Ms. Hwang said. “If I could have a reliable phone, it would be just perfect.”
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