In some of AT&T’s most troubled areas, they have come up with an alternate solution to their problems. AT&T is trying to offload their data traffic to Wi-Fi.
First, in New York’s Times Square, and now in Charlotte, NC, Mashable.com reports that AT&T is installing large Wi-Fi networks. These networks are being installed so that devices like the iPhone will disconnect from the cell towers in the area and use the Wi-Fi network for data. This should help with the issues of poor service in areas where installing new cellular infrastructure could take years to deploy.
In a few weeks, a Wi-Fi network in Chicago will be turned on, and AT&T doesn’t plan to stop there. AT&T is currently able to support 68.1 million connections on their Wi-Fi network, which is over four times their capacity at this point last year. With a growth rate like that, one could expect to see large Wi-Fi coverage in almost every busy area within a few years. Devices such as the iPod touch and Wi-Fi iPad would suddenly become almost as attractive as their 3G-equipped counterparts.
While it’s easy to see how adding Wi-Fi will offload data traffic, this is not a cure for all their woes. After all, the most common AT&T complaint is dropped calls, not dropped packets. The benefit to voice-calling issues isn’t a direct one. By taking data traffic off of congested towers, you can free up some bandwidth for voice calls. There is not a direct one-to-one relationship, however. It takes a lot of users playing Words With Friends to equal the network bandwidth of a single voice call.
So is blanketing busy areas with Wi-Fi a solution to the high demand caused by iPhones or is it just a nice perk? Let us know in the comments.