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AT&T Braces for Synchronized iPhone Attack


No telling what level of damage Friday's data onslaught could incur.

This Friday, AT&T (T) will bear witness to the frothing wrath of insulted iPhone (AAPL) users for ever suggesting that the provider's poor service is their fault. Urged and initiated by a parody blog, the attack will attempt to bring down the much maligned AT&T network via an hour of intense iPhone data usage synchronized at 12 p.m. PST.

The name of the attack: Operation Chokehold.

The organized rebellion lies at the culmination of condescending remarks, displaced blame, broken promises, and, of course, two and a half years of dropped calls. But the ire of iPhone users had recently been agitated by CEO of AT&T Mobility Ralph de la Vega who remarked that customers -- even those with unlimited data plans -- needed to be educated on "what represents a megabyte of data." (See Why AT&T Is the Biggest Loser of 2009.) And because of the "unprecedented" data use coming from the overzealous customers, de la Vega hinted at the introduction of data-tiered pricing, thus eliminating a true unlimited data plan.

Three days later, both Apple and iPhone owners received another corporate pile driver.

Randall Stross at the New York Times related a handful of studies suggesting that, despite popular opinion, AT&T wasn't the cause of all the poor data points and dropped calls. The fault lies, in fact, in the iPhone itself.

Stross cites Roger Entner, senior vice president for telecommunications research at Nielsen, who claimed the iPhone's design and "shortcomings" lent itself to "air interference" -- an inability to adequately connect to cell towers -- which affects both voice and data.

Two third-party companies, Global Wireless Solutions and Root Wireless, claimed the AT&T network boasted higher throughput rates and 75% better signal strength than chief competitor Verizon Wireless (VZ).

Even telecom consultant Chetan Sharma referenced AT&T as an overloaded network, but praised the company for managing to cope with the number of customers. "Other operators have the luxury of watching and learning from AT&T, which has the most number of next-generation smartphones, with full browsers and built-in video players," Sharma said.

So, as the article clearly intimates, none of this is AT&T's fault.

The reaction was quick and furious. John Gruber at Daring Fireball broke down Stross' piece and listed the flaws within: Global Wireless Solutions has AT&T as a client but not Verizon; the iPhone wasn't used in Root Wireless' study; Consumer Reports still ranks AT&T last in customer surveys; international iPhone users on other providers have reported no similar problems and were able to set up tethering far earlier; and the simple fact that service has gotten worse as iPhone models have gotten progressively better.

Although Gruber bared his teeth in response, Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) brandished a weapon.
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