In a filing with the FCC, AT&T admitted that the rise of tablet and smartphones like the iPad and iPhone has taken a major toll.
In its public filing to the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, AT&T clearly admitted that it can't handle the growing number of iPhones, iPads and other high-bandwidth devices (tablets, smartphones, etc) leeching off its network. In fact, the company said tablets are putting an even greater strain on the network than smartphones in many cases.
Unfortunately, the future isn't looking quite so bright for the wireless carrier. "Over the next five years, data usage on AT&T's network is projected to skyrocket as customers 'mobilize' all of their communications activities, from streaming HD video and cloud computing to a range of M2M applications like energy management, fleet tracking, and remote health monitoring," AT&T wrote in the filing.
AT&T began to see troubles around four years ago, and now reports a frightening 8,000-percent increase in data consumption between 2007 and 2010. It's struggles to maintain service for the growing number of iPhone consumers is already widely known and the subject of many jokes-- its struggles have even been used in Verizon's own iPhone campaign. Eventually complaints of slow traffic and dropped calls provoked AT&T to drop its unlimited plans and offer tiered pricing to regain control over data consumption.
Although AT&T doesn't actually specify the iPhone by name in the filing, the 8,000-percent jump in data usage is rather obvious-- it coincides with the release of Apple's first iPhone back in 2008. The company even claimed in the public filing that smartphones use 24 times more data for each user-- and that doesn't even include tablets.
That said, AT&T feels justified in acquiring T-Mobile so that some of that load can be dumped off onto the other network. Not only will customers benefit from faster data and a reduced frequency in dropped calls, T-Mobile's extensive reach will increase broadband penetration in rural areas for parent company AT&T.
Still, despite its current rivalry with Verizon, AT&T must have felt some kind of relief once the iPhone 4 landed on the competing network. Thursday Verizon announced that it activated 2.2 million CDMA iPhone 4 units in the seven weeks between the February 10 launch and March 31. That's 2.2 million units less for AT&T who apparently is still having trouble maintaining its current iPhone and iPad user base.
Thursday Verizon said that the iPhone 4 produced the most successful first-day sales in the wireless carrier's history.