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A Possible Cause of AT&T's Wireless Clog — Configuration Errors

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the three-card-monty-design dept.

Wireless Networking 217

AT&T customers (iPhone users notably among them) have seen some wireless congestion in recent months; Brough Turner thinks the trouble might be self-inflicted. According to Turner, the poor throughput and connection errors can be chalked up to "configuration errors specifically, congestion collapse induced by misconfigured buffers in their mobile core network." His explanation makes an interesting read.

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217 comments

First Time (1)

pilsner.urquell (734632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868457)

Wouldn't be the first time, except maybe for AT&T.

Re:First Time (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868643)

Wouldn't be the first time, except maybe for AT&T.

I don't think that it's limited to just AT&T - I am in Australia, so have never even had to deal with them, but I am finding that in the vast majority of Australian companies as well, simple back to basics work quality is plummeting. Everything seems to be about making everything as cheap as possible - whether or not it even functions the way it is supposed to. That also goes for the majority of customer service dealings as well.

It seems that the "Do it once but do it properly" mentality is limited to very few people and businesses. I work as a business analyst and the amount of arguing I have to do with each project to get extra money spent to do things properly (the majority of the time it saves money in the long run anyhow for other projects - I am not even taking into account the maintenance and support savings into that equation) yet I seem to always have to fight the same battles over and over.

Re:First Time (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868847)

I know somebody who works on network infrastructure for Telstra. I suggested to him that a lot of traffic which currently goes through wireless and wired LANs will soon run through the cellular networks. He was horrified at the idea. Apparently TCP/IP traffic from 3G cells has to go all the way back to the internet backbone, so anything resembling P2P still saturates the links between the base stations and the back end. Thats a minor issue just now but in addition the links to the 3G cells are only just keeping up with demand right now.

I pointed to the European environment where 3G data is much cheaper and more bandwidth is available. He says that we don't do that kind of investment here. So at the end of the day its a money problem. Lots of profit being taken while they can get away with it.

Re:First Time (3, Interesting)

bertok (226922) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869091)

I know somebody who works on network infrastructure for Telstra. I suggested to him that a lot of traffic which currently goes through wireless and wired LANs will soon run through the cellular networks. He was horrified at the idea. Apparently TCP/IP traffic from 3G cells has to go all the way back to the internet backbone, so anything resembling P2P still saturates the links between the base stations and the back end. Thats a minor issue just now but in addition the links to the 3G cells are only just keeping up with demand right now.

I pointed to the European environment where 3G data is much cheaper and more bandwidth is available. He says that we don't do that kind of investment here. So at the end of the day its a money problem. Lots of profit being taken while they can get away with it.

Yeah, I love the lack of forward planning by Telcos in Australia.

Some years ago, there was talk of building some huge fiber-optic ring around the Pacific, connecting a bunch of countries. The only telco in Australia at the time that could afford to buy into the project was Telstra. One of the VPs of Telstra was quoted as saying "we have sufficient bandwidth right now". Think about it: the VP of a telco couldn't quite understand the need to maintain exponential growth in bandwidth right when broadband was taking off. Thanks to morons like that overpaid suit, Australia has been bandwidth-starved for a decade, which is why you don't see that many truly "unlimited" plans or free WiFi access points like in other countries.

Re:First Time (3, Insightful)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868855)

I think that what you are seeing is just the result of how business is conducted these days and how the money is allocated. currently I have the same perception about things where I work and I believe the change came when the company hired several "genius" executives that had degrees in finance, administration and such from reputable universities.

They came with the current trends in economic analisys "pre-programmed" (to be truthful, that is what is being teched at most universities now) and this type of mentality views projects just as a cash-flow problem, so any money spent "doing things properly" is money spent now, not in six months or two years or longer, so the calculate that a project finished early that just needs "tweaking" in a future date is better and cheaper than a project done the way it is supposed to be done (but taking longer). I see things like that every day and have been "bitten" by that kind of analisys in a couple recent projects.

Sorry if this seems like rambling, I tend to explain too much.

Re:First Time (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868909)

any money spent "doing things properly" is money spent now, not in six months or two years or longer, so the calculate that a project finished early that just needs "tweaking" in a future date is better and cheaper than a project done the way it is supposed to be done (but taking longer)

Yup, that's exactly what I am talking about, and I find it very frustrating. The time between project end and the final "tweaking" implementation where the project deliverable finally works as it is supposed to is both frustrating for the users, has a high support cost from a systems point and the "tweaks" normally end up adding much more to the cost itself than just doing it properly the first time.

I am reasonably lucky that these days I am involved in the early stages of some of the projects that I work on, and I start on the offensive for the most part, and ask for detailed analysis from project managers that I work with on the cost of the "cheap" and "proper" solutions over the space of a year or two if the project looks like it is trying to cut too many corners - and take that analysis to the program office - it's coming out of their pockets after all or on occasion directly to the business that is footing the bill for the project. While it works for the majority of the time, it's still amazingly frustrating to have to fight the same damned fight each time so that things are done properly. In my eye's it's up to the project managers to be ensuring that their projects are done properly and not end up as massive drains on support/systems.

Sadly, few of them see it that way. It's all about being cheap and cost cutting and meeting budget KPI's rather than arguing that the budgets are set too low.

Re:First Time (2, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869333)

I believe we need to change the "They don't make em' like they used to" mentality.

They cut corners and cheapened out on stuff in the past too. It's just, none of those survived. So sure we can disassemble radio transmitters made in the 40's, see the craftsmanship that went into each one, and sigh that our equipment isn't made nearly as well. But there were a heck of a lot of transmitters and things made in the 40's that simply didn't survive because they were cheap junk.

It's not helpful to go to the upper management and say "they don't make them like this anymore." That's not something which is actionable. What can change decisions is "Look at this thing which has been making money for this company for 70 years. Now look at the others which all died in the 60's. It is worth it to make 'em like this."

Re:First Time (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869059)

Posting Anonymously because I don't feel like being associated with an unpopular viewpoint:

Sometimes 'good enough' really is the best option for the business as a whole.  Techies and engineers often have a hard time accepting this until they've actually run a department, but it's true.

If we have $10m today, we might benefit more by doing 10 $1m projects 'pretty well' than by doing 7 $1.4m projects 'perfectly', for a number of reasons.

It could get something to market faster...  it could be that the marketplace cares deeply about some features, but doesn't care quite so much about initial quality, it could be that it's just better to run 10 experiments and see which pan out well enough to put extra money in them later... it could just be that nobody is happy, but there's simply not enough cash to do what's really wanted.... so it's do it 'good enough' now, or not doing it at all.

I mean... there are shitloads of valid business reasons to purposefully do things a bit half-assed.  Especially in very competitive markets, where there just isn't enough margin to pay for doing things "perfectly", or in markets that aren't meaningfully differentiated on quality.

I spend my life fighting with people like you... people who think I don't understand, or I'm shortsighted, or I'm just a robot.  But here's the thing: I think *YOU* are the idiot.

I think you're too stupid to realize that something is better than nothing... and that's often the choice.

I think you're too stupid to realize that if customers aren't willing to pay for quality, then we likely won't have the budget to pay for it.

I think you're too stupid to realize that if we aren't sure what's happening to a product in a 5 year horizon, we'll take a lot more risk with it, on purpose.  After all, if we think it might be going away, it's going to be the step-child.  And we're not going to tell you in advance that it might be going away.

I think you're too stupid to realize that we're not idiots.  We have reasons for our decisions.

And fortunately, not all techies and engineers are like you.  Some are eminently reasonable people who understand that occasionally I just have to say "your budget is cut by 8%.  Make it work."  And that when I do so, I fully grasp that this will incur a number of tradeoffs... but there just isn't enough money.

But whatever...  it doesn't matter.  Because at the end of the day, the techie nerds will continue to have no respect for management... and then they'll wonder why they're treated with no respect in return.

Re:First Time (2, Insightful)

zoloto (586738) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868923)

You're one of the few and I'm glad there are more of us around. It brings a little sense of peace to my world.

I've worked in the aerospace engineering and IT industries (both non-military/military companies) and it's like pulling teeth from a hippo to make sure some things are done properly. Only _one_ engineer understood this "do it once or don't do it at all" (verbatim, his words) philosophy. it was a quality you could see in his 45 years as a professional.

"They don't build them like they used to" was an old homage my grandfather always said. I'm starting to see what he might have meant.

Re:First Time (4, Insightful)

bertok (226922) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869081)

Wouldn't be the first time, except maybe for AT&T.

I don't think that it's limited to just AT&T - I am in Australia, so have never even had to deal with them, but I am finding that in the vast majority of Australian companies as well, simple back to basics work quality is plummeting. Everything seems to be about making everything as cheap as possible - whether or not it even functions the way it is supposed to. That also goes for the majority of customer service dealings as well.

It seems that the "Do it once but do it properly" mentality is limited to very few people and businesses. I work as a business analyst and the amount of arguing I have to do with each project to get extra money spent to do things properly (the majority of the time it saves money in the long run anyhow for other projects - I am not even taking into account the maintenance and support savings into that equation) yet I seem to always have to fight the same battles over and over.

There's a simple reason for that: money is trivial to measure. Quality is much harder to measure. For example, failure rates like MTBFs often don't directly correlate into straight dollars and cents, but a small percentage chance that it might cost a large but unknown amount at some point in the future. This kind of thing confuses people, so they stick to the simple stuff. In an Excel spreadsheet, the solution that costs fewer up-front dollars is just "better" in the world view of most people.

I've had a conversation recently with the CIO of a major business who didn't quite understand why backups were worthwhile. He said something along the lines of "how does this help the business sell more widgets?".

I see the same thing, but often much worse, in big government or big bureaucracies. Project management is complex, so to simplify things, they just ignore the rest of the business or potential future requirements like they don't even exist. In the past, I've tried to point out that, say, with an additional 10% spend on one project they could halve the cost of a dozen future projects, but that's basically crazy talk to a project manager that has to minimize the cost of this project, right now. I've given up trying, and I bet a lot of other people have too.

AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Insightful)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868467)

This is not really news at all. They spend little to nothing to keep their network up to the devices they have on it. This misconfiguration of buffers (if that is really a cause at all) is probably because they might not hire people with any knowledge of what they are doing to keep costs low.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868509)

They keep cost and quality low because that is what their customers actually want, or at least, that is what they are willing to pay for.

Let's face it. The western consumer values one thing above all else; price. The cheaper the better. The public has shown repeatedly that it will value cost above quality. AT&T's customers are still with it after all. Why should AT&T attempt to improve the quality of its network if people are a) willing to pay for what they currently have, and b) won't pay for any attempts AT&T will make to improve quality. In the telecoms business, ordinary people can and will jump on the cheapest package available.

It's been a race to the bottom in more industries than this one. So we really can't complain when such shocking lapses in quality occur even in the largest companies.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1, Informative)

dziman (415307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868563)

I don't believe AT&T is the cheapest provider.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868599)

They are far from the cheapest. MetroPCS and those other all you can eat plans are the cheapest, now they even include international calling.

One reason people are still with AT&T is of course the iPhone, but also the locked carrier status on phones in the United States in general.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868865)

One reason people are still with AT&T is of course the iPhone, but also the locked carrier status on phones in the United States in general.

The locked phones come as a consequece of people wanting cheap phones (subsidized, they call them).

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Insightful)

wickerprints (1094741) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868935)

Not as it applied to the iPhone. Remember, people were lining up to pay $500 for the iPhone when it first came out--and yet it was exclusively on AT&T. Only the 3G models were subsidized.

You can't simply ignore the fact that there are a large number of iPhone users who would not choose AT&T as their carrier, but are willing to sacrifice the quality of mobile service for the convenience and features of the device. For a significant proportion of iPhone (and hence, AT&T) users, the issue therefore is not directly about cost. Many of them are capable of paying $100/month for service. $200 off the price of the phone is nothing in comparison to the cost of a 2-year contract. If it means better coverage and more flexibility, they would have no problem paying the unsubsidized cost of the phone in exchange for not being forced to go with AT&T.

As for non-iPhone devices, yes, your statement has some merit, but this is only true to the extent that handset manufacturers have traditionally provided similar devices to multiple carriers. Because of the runaway success of the exclusive iPhone+AT&T arrangement, competing handset makers are now seeking to copy that model, which ultimately does not bode well for the consumer. It is my longstanding hope that Apple will soon terminate their exclusive arrangement with AT&T, because it is not only good for them (as it increases their reach and provides them more leverage with the various carriers), but it is also good for the consumer.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869377)

It's amazing how in a developing economy like South Africa we can manage subsidized handsets (down to $8 on some), have no incoming call/sms costs and still have fairly reasonable rates. Without network lock-in.

USA, you are being royally screwed. And I should know it, it is a daily occurrence down south.

And before someone comes flaming with the recent articles about reducing interconnect costs, I know.

Why? Because they care... (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868581)

The public has shown repeatedly that it will value cost above quality

Right, that is why Apple laptop sales have tanked in the downturn. Oh, wait.

Why should AT&T attempt to improve the quality of its network if people are a) willing to pay for what they currently have, and b) won't pay for any attempts AT&T will make to improve quality.

Because those people if they dislike the network enough, will leave eventually. That is the motivation to improve on what they have now, never mind they want to stop the customers bitching who are losing them new customers right now. They have plenty of reasons, they even have plenty of money from the influx of iPhone people. There's more than enough motivation, it's more a question of execution now.

People will pay for quality. For some the cost is financial. For others, the "cost" is that they will not buy an iPhone while the AT&T network has issues.

Re:Why? Because they care... (2, Informative)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868605)

quality, and fashion, one not having to be the other...

Fashion is transient (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868695)

quality, and fashion, one not having to be the other...

Indeed, and that is why many companies built atop the foundations of showy fashion are gone now. Fashion is transient and fickle. Apple however delivers a quality product that delivers new customers through loyalty and word of mouth. If this were not so Apple would not be a tenth of what it is now.

It doesn't hurt that it is fashionable, too. But that is not why I and so many other people buy Apple products.

Re:Fashion is transient (0)

hitmark (640295) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868915)

apple was on the death bed, until the ipod got fashionable (partially thanks to those white headphone wires, as then people could tell a ipod user from a million other dap users at a glance), making the logo a fashion brand.

but then this also depends heavily on where in the world one lives. USA seems basically saturated with apple (and thanks to the majority of the tech blogs being run out of USA, that gives a "interesting" slant on things), while europe seems to be mostly wintel, with apple machines showing up in media companies (tv, newspapers, music and similar) and the education courses related to those business areas. My guess is that this is more legacy then quality, as the people doing the education cut their teeth on the earlier apple products running photoshop and similar. And so is maintaining a brand mostly out of habit, as they are teaching rote actions, not true understanding of whats done.

there is however the "new market", that is unix geeks that basically use osx for its bsd kernel and shell. Sadly, with microsoft using strong arm tactics on the resellers of their os, so that unless your only selling windows on x86 boxes the oem price goes stratospheric, apple is the only company in the position to push a unix box on supported hardware.

i would say that if HP or dell really took a good look at linux, or even one of the BSD's, they could match apple on quality. But microsoft keeps them on a short leash, just watch how HP dumped their customized linux offering when windows 7 launched.

Re:Fashion is transient (2, Informative)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869097)

Sorry, but the thing about Europe is bullshit. The macbooks are so popular in Norway that pretty much _everyone_ in university has one. And I'm not saying 'everyone' as in 20%, but literally almost everyone.

Re:Fashion is transient (0)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868973)

I'm not sure Apple products are of better quality than your average branded PC. They are more of a pain to fix, that's for sure, and don't seem that well built. Anyone got real maintenance data ?

Re:Why? Because they care... (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868617)

Because those people if they dislike the network enough, will leave eventually.

This is the problem. Thanks to the competitive barriers (such as the inability to move phones between all but two of the top four networks, and none of the top 3) moving can take a long time (2 year contract must expire) before someone can move networks unless they want to pay a large fee.

And then, you probably lose your phone. So even if you like it, you have to buyer either a different phone from the new provider, or the same one in their version. Both will cost you even more money, unless you're willing to be stuck on another 2 year contract.

The US system is very well setup, as far as carrier lock in goes.

It's rather amazing how many people go to AT&T for the iPhone. I think they said about 1/3 of their iPhone customers are coming from other networks. I wonder how many more people would get iPhones if it wasn't for their current contract? That's a big reason for many people I've talked to. The rest who want an iPhone are in the "I'd love it but I'm not touching AT&T again" camp.

A long time is still time (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868711)

This is the problem. Thanks to the competitive barriers (such as the inability to move phones between all but two of the top four networks, and none of the top 3) moving can take a long time (2 year contract must expire) before someone can move networks unless they want to pay a large fee.

You say that like it does not matter because the period of switchover is two years. But it matters a great deal still, because many people will still leave then (or if they are mad enough pay the fee). A company like AT&T must be forward thinking in what problems now do for subscribers in future years, never mind the day when T-Mobile is also carrying iPhones (we have seen Verizon will not happen).

It's rather amazing how many people go to AT&T for the iPhone. I think they said about 1/3 of their iPhone customers are coming from other networks. I wonder how many more people would get iPhones if it wasn't for their current contract?

Probably quite a few, as I said that was a factor too. Which is why the two year thing doesn't really matter for motivation because they are losing new customers in addition to the ones potentially lost in two years.

Re:Why? Because they care... (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868719)

Right, that is why Apple laptop sales have tanked in the downturn. Oh, wait.

I think that will change once Windows 7 is mainstream. Everyone hated Vista. Now it seems like everyone loves 7 and Snow Leopard only got a "meh" response from reviewers (not because Snow Leopard is bad it just doesn't have anything revolutionary, the fact that 7 runs at a decent speed is considered to be "revolutionary" in the PC world). There are two people who use Macs, people who have grown up using Macs and people who prefer Macs. When faced with Vista, a lot of people started to realize they prefer Macs.

Because those people if they dislike the network enough, will leave eventually

"Eventually" isn't very soon when you have a 2 year contract with early termination fees that are through the roof.

That is the motivation to improve on what they have now, never mind they want to stop the customers bitching who are losing them new customers right now

All 4 major carriers suck though. Lets see here, AT&T has network issues and isn't cheap, T-Mobile might have great customer service, good phones but it has a pathetic amount of 3G coverage compared to the others. Verizon might have a great network, but it isn't exactly cheap and a lot of their phones (at least used to) suck terribly with many features being stripped out of them. Sprint might be cheap but their coverage isn't great.

And none of them have a phone with as many apps as the iPhone, yes, Android and WebOS are great, but they still don't have the amount of apps as the iPhone nor as much support from companies such as game developers and the like. And don't get me started on Windows mobile.....

For others, the "cost" is that they will not buy an iPhone while the AT&T network has issues.

...And who is going to look at a few "geek" articles about the iPhone and decide not to get it? Yeah, sure, we all know about how AT&T's network is crap, but people see the iPhone and want that. They only see the network once AT&T has them hooked on a few years agreement.

Re:Why? Because they care... (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868763)

I think that will change once Windows 7 is mainstream.

I don't think people care that much one way or the other. In fact studies have shown previous Windows releases increased Mac sales, and this will too - if you have to refresh a whole system, if you have to learn a new UI - why not a Mac?

I just can't see how Windows7 will have any impact at all in slowing down the Mac train.

All 4 major carriers suck though.

From experience with them all I totally agree, which is why I am not as much bothered by some people with the iPhone being AT&T only.

Verizon might actually improve if they don't tamper with the Droid much. ...And who is going to look at a few "geek" articles about the iPhone and decide not to get it?

It's not that at all. It's having a friend who complains about dropped calls all the time, or if he tries to the use the network and it's failing a lot. This kind of damage is all done at the word of mouth level.

Re:Why? Because they care... (2, Insightful)

beej (82035) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869151)

The public has shown repeatedly that it will value cost above quality

Right, that is why Apple laptop sales have tanked in the downturn. Oh, wait.

Macs have a 10% market share. I'm not sure that really supports the suggestion that people value quality over cost, with 9/10 people voting against "quality".

Either that, or people don't think Macs are quality.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Insightful)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868645)

The public has shown repeatedly that it will value cost above quality.

Then why are people flocking to AT&T for the IPhone? It certainly isn't the least expensive smartphone out there. Perhaps it is because it is the best smartphone out there, and people are willing to put up with a crappy provider to get the device. Perhaps quality does sell, at least for devices.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1, Insightful)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868989)

Until I see reliability data that proves otherwise, I don't think Apple is about quality/reliability. At least, not in my experience.

Aplle is about design, ease of use, and trendiness. My in-laws iPhone broke after 2 months. My brother's iMac, after 2 years, several thing in a row (CPU fan, HD). And let's not get even close to the Mighty Mouse I got suckered into buying in for a bday.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Interesting)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869015)

To be fair, MojoRilla's argument was it's one of the "best smartphones out there", not the highest quality and certainly not the most reliable.

The iPhone has managed to put itself in the hands of many people who've never had a very nice phone, so I think the iPhone is far better quality than a large portion of its user base is used to and comparable to other phones in its class.

For what it is worth, I believe Apple's selling points are in this order: Features, quality, price (the last two are very close, for better or worse). On the flip side, I feel many computer manufacturers are price first, features second, quality third. But of course, most companies have 'cheap' and 'expensive' lines of computers, so that varies. One thing I can say though, is Apple support is far superior to any support you'll get from another computer manufacturer these days.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869067)

One thing I can say though, is Apple support is far superior to any support you'll get from another computer manufacturer these days.

Fact: Everything I say is fiction.

I don't know what your getting at but I think Apple has support that does damn good job at keeping that reality distortion field up.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (-1, Troll)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869071)

So you think design, ease of use, and the In factor have nothing to do with Apple's success ?

FYI, the iPhone is rather feature-poor. Look at how in can't break the Asian markets, which are more sophisticated. Browsing is easy and fun, the interface is nice, iTunes is very convenient... But even bluetooth profiles are incomplete, no multitasking....

Again, in my experience, build quality is not that good. Only objective figures will settle that question.

Finally, price, you must be kidding. Apple's kit, be it MP3 players, desktops, laptops, or phones, is one, if not THE, most expensive out there. Only Sony is consistently more expensive that Apple.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869031)

People are willing to put up with a crappy provider because they are shallow and insecure about themselves and the iphone fixes that.

  The iphone's true function is to impress others and to make you feel good about buying the coolest. product. ever. Your argument is kind of like saying that American cars must be better because people flocked to buy hummers/escalades. People are morons.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Insightful)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869119)

The public has shown repeatedly that it will value cost above quality.

Then why are people flocking to AT&T for the IPhone? It certainly isn't the least expensive smartphone out there. Perhaps it is because it is the best smartphone out there, and people are willing to put up with a crappy provider to get the device. Perhaps quality does sell, at least for devices.

I think a fundamental problem with discussing this here is that there are (at least) two different perspectives at work. There's the Slashdotter who has read "AT&T network problem" time and time again over the last few months and then there's the iPhone customer who, rather than basing his decision solely on these headlines, knows several people with an iPhone who have never complained about the network. Somebody who has made up their mind that they don't want to touch it at all cannot understand the decision made to do it, who did their research in a different manner.

I'm probably jinxing myself here, but since I'm both a Slashdotter and an iPhone customer, I can tell you what it's like. I've only really seen a network problem once. I went to a party at Venice Beach on the 4th of July. We all got full bars and were trying to call people to help them find their way in. We found that we couldn't make calls! Full bars but no calls? I discovered that if we turned 3G off, the phones would suddenly work. My theory, which is wholly unscientific, is that so many people in the vicinity had iPhones that the tower was effectively DOS'd. That's my whole 'network outage' story in the 11 or so months I've had the service.

I do occasionally get dropped calls. I have not had this happen any more often than it did with Sprint or any other carrier I've had. Most of the time when it does, I've already been on the phone like 2 hours. I think one night it was particularly bad. Like the call dropped 3 or four times. That was unusual. With the exception of the silliness on the 4th of July, it has never made me say "wow, this is the worst service I've ever had!" Given how radios work, I'd be surprised if I ever had a service that had a once-a-year dropped call or something like that.

Most of my coworkers have iPhones. The only ones I've ever heard complain about reception were the ones that bought the original ones. That's not a huge surprise, they don't support 3G (AT&T is shifting resources at the expense of the EDGE network) and they have the metal plate in the back that is suspected of lowering signal quality. Beyond that, everybody's been happy. Word of mouth spreads, more and more people get iPhones. Frankly, nearly all of the complaints I've heard about AT&T and/or the iPhone come from Slashdot.

Maybe AT&T has better service is Los Angeles. I don't know. I'm not claiming to have the answers, here. I don't think 'fashion' has much to do with the people I know having iPhones. I think it's because they know that when they get a phone they're stuck with it for two years, so they want one other people are happy with. That's why before the iPhone, everybody I knew had Treos. (Blackberries and RAZRs being second and third place, respectively.)

I don't think many people are really fighting with AT&T's network. I'll concede, though, that it's difficult to generalize about millions of people.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2)

drtsystems (775462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869409)

My own personal anecdote: AT&T is HORRIBLE. I switched to AT&T for the iPhone and am getting the hell away from it as soon as my 2 year contract expires. I will switch to (in my opinion) an inferior phone (the Droid/Sholes/whatever they are calling it now) looks promising, to get away from AT&T. I absolutely love my iPhone, but it does me no good when I can't access the internet or make/receive calls when I want to.

The difference from Verizon is astounding. I can count on two hands the number of times I didn't have service on Verizon. And most of those times were things like camping trips in the woods. I NEVER had a dropped call or iffy voice quality in a place I normally have service. The only time I ever experienced a dropped call on verizon was when I drove/walked out of a service area. AT&T on the other hand is COMPLETELY different. If I tell someone to call I don't count on receiving that call. Even in downtown Columbus Ohio, which AT&T has supposedly full 3G coverage (and I have 5 bars all the time). I went through a period of time where I only received about 50% of calls. Quality is TERRIBLE (sometimes I have weird echoing issues, voice dropouts, etc.) I have gone through multiple SIM cards and iPhones. Others with AT&T report the same issues.

I have noticed that people who have never had verizon (or probably sprint, can't attest to their network, but I hear its pretty good and roams to verizon in most places) seem to have a different outlook on cell phones. They assume the poor quality and dropped calls are normal. Its funny, the AT&T fewest dropped calls commercials really only resonated with AT&T customers. As a verizon customer at the time I would always think who ever has dropped calls? I don't live in a rural area.. my mom (a verizon customer also) once asked me so what is a dropped call? Yet if I had AT&T since the dawn of ubiquitous cell coverage, I would be thinking to myself, wow dropped calls I hate those, I'm glad I'm on AT&T.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Insightful)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869155)

Then why are people flocking to AT&T for the IPhone?

Uh... They aren't. They're flocking to the iPhone. AT&T is incidental.
If it had been Sprint, T-Mobile, or some other provider, sales would be nearly identical. (Actually, given the amount of bitching about AT&T, sales would probably have been slightly higher.)

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Insightful)

forand (530402) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868677)

Europe has a vastly superior cell network than the US and on average consumers do not pay significantly more than US consumers. Furthermore US consumers are locked into a contract which ensures a steady income for the service providers. The major difference being populations density but this should not be an issue since the cell providers are given a subsidy to build out into rural areas. I think that the real issue is not the Western consumer but the US corporation which extracts every last cent of value from the current consumer to give it to investors and or executives with little to no thought towards how the company will make money in the future. So while the US consumer may strive to keep prices low (as they should in a free market) the US corporations are taking the profit they have and investing nothing for the future.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Interesting)

dUN82 (1657647) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869075)

Totally agree ! Have being lived in 3 countries for some considerable time and as a mobile phone user in China (9 yrs), UK(5yrs), and the US(3yrs), I have to say: US has the worst cellphones selection, worst cellphone call quality + coverage, highest tariffs, lengthiest contract, and most unfair contract. I have to settle with AT&T when I arrived in the US since I have my own GSM phone which keeps out of Sprint/Verizon, and honestly speaking, I am glad I brought my own phone, because there really isn't anything that you can choose from until the iphone came out, I do not want to start on comparing different phone brands, but I do want to have a phone that run on its original OS from the phone company, and is unlocked or at least unlock it after the contract, which apparently is too much to ask for in the US. I will also not blame the poor network coverage since low population density etc, but I pay around twice as much for the same mins I pay in the UK and do not let me start comparing the cost per min in China, further, how on earth can you still charge people for receiving text msgs and answering phone calls? Even state owned duopoly or future tri-poly Chinese mobile provider dumped that policy, and it would be a total joke to UK and EU customers. 2 year contract is one of the worst, and I think they started on 18 month contract in the UK about 2 years ago, but they still give you the option to do a 12 month contract if you choose to pay a bit more for the handset, just imagine a situation that you might not even be in US long enough to finish the contract, what should you do then? The worst part is nothing seems to change or getting improved. Finally, the issues or rotted with US has the worst telecommunication business model, capitalism really suck shit and just does not work for the people!

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Interesting)

Alpha830RulZ (939527) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869085)

Europe has many more customers in a much smaller geographic area. I wonder if it isn't a lot cheaper to service them.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2, Interesting)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869111)

Furthermore US consumers are locked into a contract which ensures a steady income for the service providers.

There's a challenge for you. Go and buy an unlocked cell phone. Then go to any of the major carriers and try to signup for service without a contract.

I tried this a few years ago and not a single carrier would sign me up without a two year contract. (What's the point of buying an unlocked phone if you can't take it from network to network without locking in to a contract. I might as well get the damn subsidized phone.)

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

beej (82035) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869157)

My German friend gets some-number-of-megabit tethering on his phone for something around $40/month. It's positively criminal.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (4, Informative)

mveloso (325617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869181)

1. the US is much bigger than Europe, with multiple overlapping jurisdictions. It's easy to cover any of the European countries, because they're small and there wasn't a technology transition.

2. there isn't as much rural subsidy for cellphones. Universal service was for landlines, mainly.

3. the problem is cost vs coverage. You can build out rural areas, but you make less money because there are less people. For urban areas, you start running into interference problems. Plus, you have to constantly build out your infrastructure (see AT&T's infrastructure problems).

Europe has it easy. It's not evil corporations (which, to be frank, is a retarded and simplistic view of how things work) - it's pure cost/benefit.

Example:

France: 211,207 square miles
Texas: 268,601 square miles
US: 3,537,441 square miles

If AT&T only had to operate in Texas, it would be able to do pretty well. AT&T's footprint is national, however. Do you develop Texas completely, or do you cover Michigan and Texas? How about extending to Missouri? etc etc.

Then that's current coverage; what about LTE? How about maintaining that infrastructure?

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868813)

Which totally ignores that elsewhere you get higher quality for lower cost...

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868849)

So you think ATT is cheap? Seriously? Do you even live in this country? ATT has average price plans and higher than average data rates. Their prepaid service is the single most expensive of all the carriers. God forbid you send a text message on it.
 
Meanwhile, there are a half a dozen carriers that offer unlimited plans at 50$ a month while ATT still doesn't have a fully unlimited plan of any kind. And the closest you can get is about 130$/mo, and that STILL doesn't include unlimited txt messages.
 
ATT prices themselves as the "top teir" service, and then provides sub-standard service. The only thing they have going for them is they have by far the best standard coverage on the west coast. However, both Tmobile and Verizon are catching up rather quickly, and exceeding ATT in web access in most areas. G3 is worthless in beaverton/hillsborro areas during rush hours, as the network is so overloaded you might as well find a hotspot instead. (luckily, those are plentiful).

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

rubi (910818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868861)

How true!

The best example is tourism. The current model is to have many "all-included" cheap packages to some resort facility with everything in it so the tourist doesn't have to even venture out of the complex during the whole vacation. LOW PRICE IS KING.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868903)

So we really can't complain when such shocking lapses in quality occur even in the largest companies.

Er... Yes we can. As a matter of fact that's the feedback that tells companies that better quality is desired. And AT&T isn't the cheapest people can get, and as has been pointed out, people on AT&T are buying iPhones. And even excepting all that, with an outfit the size of AT&T, well paid engineers will easily pay for themselves by making better use of the existing equipment.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1, Troll)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868957)

They keep cost and quality low because that is what their customers actually want, or at least, that is what they are willing to pay for.

[CITATION NEEDED] You'd have an argument if AT&T was the lowest cost provider, but they aren't. MetroPCS is. Also this doesn't make sense from a market perspective either. You have the leading smart device on arguably the worst national network, yet AT&T continues to get subscribers almost exclusively due to iPhone sells. This makes a scarce resource -- AT&T's network -- even more scarce. Supply and Demand tells us that customers would be willing to pay more to access that network, especially given that demand isn't just steady, but steadily growing. [click2creation.com]

To quote Red from Shawshank Redemption, "I do believe you're talking out your ass."

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869035)

Just how expensive is it to trim the buffers? Hiring one routing genus could solve all their problems.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869113)

Let's face it. The western consumer values one thing above all else; price. The cheaper the better.

That's a natural reaction to the nearly complete lack of truth in advertising enforcement and corporate cost (and quality) cutting. When every purchase is a crapshoot for quality no matter how reputable or unknown the brand, consumers will naturally buy the cheapest every time on the principle that if they're going to get screwed, they might as well get screwed for the least amount possible.

Unfortunately, unless or until strong consumer laws start nailing the liars to the wall, a company wanting to compete on quality will have a hard time staying in business. The few that do provide quality mostly do so because their leaders can't stomach throwing morals and ethics out the window.

Consider, ISP A figures they can provide service capped at 750GB/month for $30 or 250GB/month for $20. They will clearly lose business to the other ISP advertising "unlimited" use for $25 even though they actually cap it at 250GB.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869379)

Let's face it. The western consumer values one thing above all else; price. The cheaper the better.

DSL was cheaper than cable, but it became marginalized because the network was unreliable and slow.
Dial-up is now a fifth of the cost of most high-speed internet connections in the US. But it's not even considered an option now for most people.

I agree with the sentiment, but don't forget that the western consumer is also lazy and impatient. Combined with cheap, these three things form the legs of the crippled turtle that is our modern telecommunications system.

Re:AT&T Trouble Self Inflicted? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868671)

This misconfiguration of buffers (if that is really a cause at all) is probably because they might not hire people with any knowledge of what they are doing to keep costs low.

Connecting to other topics: would you trust them to manage better the traffic shaping or would you consider that the network neutrality is the cheapest?

  • when is "cheaper" coming from the provider's pocket (and is passed on to the customers) and when is "cheaper" coming actually from offsetting the provider cost on the expense of you customers (thus the quality sucks)?
  • is this self-infliction accidental (they don't know better) or is it deliberate (making you wait results in taxing you higher)?

Hm (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868489)

His explanation makes an interesting read.

I'd like to think that's a given, considering it's a news story. At any rate, from TFA:

The bottleneck link is the over-the-air link, i.e. the connection from radio access network or UTRAN to the Mobile Statation (MS) in the above diagram, therefore the critical buffers are those at the UTRAN. In practice the UTRAN includes both the basestations (called Node-Bs) and the Radio Network Controllers (RNCs) which coordinate handovers between basestations (among other things). Because of hand-overs, the amount of data buffered at the Node-B is relatively small. It's the buffers at the RNC that must be large enough to deal with the delay variations in the radio network and yet small enough to induce packet loss when the network gets congested.

I am not a network engineer, but how exactly could 8 second ping time be not noticed by the AT&T engineers who set up, configured, and monitored their OTA link? I would think that we're not talking about some dude's set of bridged dd-wrt linksys routers, but some serious heavy-duty RF equipment. I'm thinking on the order of several zeros...

Re:Hm (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868943)

Because they don't monitor it. They don't even send a guy to check on it unless several people on the same cell log a complaint, something which may take several calls to customer service.

Re:Hm (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869125)

I think the key word you assumed was being followed is "monitored". They setup the network and walk away and never monitor. I just upgraded my ATT DSL service but tested the speed before I submitted the change request. After the request was fulfilled, the speed remained the same. I called and 20 minutes later they had "corrected" the problem. Set it and forget it is the problem.

Re:Hm (2, Funny)

mikep554 (787194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869211)

Maybe some PHB equates packet loss with dropped calls, and told the engineers that packet loss would also equate to job loss. Not the first time a person in authority forces a bad configuration choice based on a complete misconception of a situation.

This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settings (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868503)

You see, most blokes, you know, will be buffering at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your buffer. Where can you go from there? Where?

I don't know.

Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Put it up to eleven.

Eleven. Exactly. One more buffered.

Re:This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settin (1, Insightful)

base3 (539820) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868549)

Whoever modded that down is a humorless dick.

Re:This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settin (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868553)

When did you last meet an unfunny penis?

Re:This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settin (5, Funny)

jmac_the_man (1612215) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868765)

When did you last meet an unfunny penis?

Probably when he met the guy that modded that comment down.

Re:This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868777)

When did you last meet an unfunny penis?

Just now, when I looked down my pants!

CAPTCHA: horrify

Re:This is impossible, I've seen the buffer settin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868809)

Roman Polanski.

Software Robustness (3, Interesting)

dziman (415307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868513)

I find it just as problematic that applications software on Windows Mobile and other similar mobile OSes do not handle large network delays gracefully.

There is often very little feedback to the user of the software that actual progress is being made in attempt to communicate over the network. Sure, we can use the fuzzy "bars" indicator on the device to help diagnose what may be the cause of our trouble, but that doesn't indicate actual network conditions due to capacity. We also have animated indicators that web browsers and other applications use, but these still don't indicate any kind of actual success to communicate. In web browsers we get text alluding the DNS lookup, and connection attempt, but when you combine 'Connecting to...' with a simple spinning indicator or progress bar, that often doesn't convey that the message reached any destination or how long until you can expect any response from your local network based on its operating conditions.

The writers of the software may not fully understand the implications of being on a network with high packet loss or long round trip times. So they timeout or have errors that could be resolved by more delay or retry. In a mobile OS we should probably take this into account at the OS level, and opt out of this behavior only when the programmer or user specifies (if that's exposed).

Re:Software Robustness (1)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868589)

Having the OS deal with large network delays is not a trivial issue to solve.

If a mobile app waits too long to tell the user "oops connection failed" the app risks looking unresponsive. I have one mobile app that retries for a good 4 or 5 minutes before popping up an error dialog, the entire time the app is just sitting there twiddling its thumbs when it is obvious to me that it needs to restart the entire connection process over again.

On the other hand, if apps don't wait long enough, they risk resetting a connection when in fact the bytes being waited for are on their way.

Given how cellular network latency can vary so much, there isn't really a "right" solution. Is 30 seconds too long or too short? I have seen network latencies of that length before...

Re:Software Robustness (1)

Techman83 (949264) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868607)

Some advanced info would be handy in apps, but the people that generally benefit from that information can find it out in other ways or already understand the nature of the Internet. Most people would either glaze over or swear at their machine regardless of the information presented.

Re:Software Robustness (5, Interesting)

kaiser423 (828989) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868699)

Blackberries are awesome about this with the bi-directional communication arrows. When I'm with friends in an area of low reception, they're all walking around randomly trying to call every two yards, and waiting 15 seconds before determining that its not going to work. I walk around until I see an incoming arrow. I freeze and then make a call. Works wonderously.

Re:Software Robustness (1)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868921)

I walk around until I see an incoming arrow. I freeze and then make a call. Works wonderously.

And what does the outgoing arrow mean? A call is a two way conversation so I don't see what point you are trying to make.

Re:Software Robustness (4, Interesting)

nick0909 (721613) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869027)

The arrows show data traffic as well as voice traffic. It is very nice to see a whole lot of up, down, or both arrows flashing when an app is sitting "unresponsive." You know data is flying so nothing is wrong, just wait and the app will respond when it has the data it needs. The arrows (at least on my 8330) are large for the faster network, and thin for the slow network so I even know when it will take longer because of poor network coverage. I used a Windows Mobile phone for a week and it drove me mad not knowing what was going on with the network data.

Re:Software Robustness (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868931)

I walk around until I see an incoming arrow. I freeze and

people and cars crash into me

Re:Software Robustness (3, Interesting)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869079)

TCP/IP completely shields the application from the underlying transport.

A call is made to resolve a name (dns), a connection is opened, and... data flows. Or not.

So, your speculated "connectivity feedback" information has to come from a lower level than the application. It has to be in the stack.

Some platforms do incorporate this feedback from the stack. It just isn't an application responsibility. Even on platforms with good feedback (Blackberry), the applications are not aware.

And the application layer programmer should DEFINITELY not be making these decisions. If the application wants something other than TCP, the developer does have the option of using UDP.

safari sux (3, Interesting)

peterflat (1326469) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868547)

it doesn't help that the safari client that the iphone uses will double load a page. Even if the user closes safari for a couple minutes, when reopening the browser the current page will reload. lose lose for everyone.

Re:safari sux (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868955)

Warning: This will go slightly on a tangent away from AT&T since the unnecessary reload topic was brought up:

I used Opera from about 2001 to 2006. My version installs were 5 and 6, about 2 numbers behind the standard back then. I'm not sure if this has changed because I've moved away to FF, Chrome and Safari on windows, but page reloading is a problem in 2 ways, and Opera beautifully gave you cached pages until you tried to reload. You could force more frequent loads if the default behavior screwed with your news sites though.

2 big things:

1) If you have 30 tabs open from a whole week's browsing session, and the browser reloads ALL of them at startup, you'll choke your DSL connection for a couple minutes, and also peg your processor with these "modern browsers," except maybe for Chrome's multithreaded load.

Some graphic boards have high-transit forum sections that auto-disappear in 20 minutes. If you were reading a long discussion and couldn't finish, closed your browser and reopened it past those 20 minutes, the page would just be gone when you returned. I prefer the cache behavior that lets me see the page there for weeks until I try to hit "Refresh" to see if new data has been posted.

Plus, browsers like FF tend to load everything into RAM, forget about your hard drive cache (I know there are settings to move things around, but they don't seem to do anything even with just one or two tabs open.) If you are looking at 20 1MB jpegs pictures that should easily be stored in your HD, and try to restart the browser, the session will start downloading all the images again. Us low-bandwidth DSL users can't afford to waste time like this.

I think FF 3 is a bit better at caching and reloading less by default. Remember, you and I can figure out how to go in and try to use a very, very large HD cache. If the browser logic does some weird stuff ignoring you anyway, then imagine what this does to average Joes who don't know why the pages are taking so long to display?

Zero packet loss = epic fail (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868551)

How can you expect to have zero packet loss on a wireless network? That's just stupid.

Please fix this ATT!

(I'm not holding my breath... )

Re:Zero packet loss = epic fail (5, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868649)

Wow. This is kind of amazing.

Nothing on this page (as I type) talks about zero packet loss, except you. That means you read the article.

Of course, the article says that AT&T has set their buffers large enough to prevent packet loss due to congestion in transit, not that they expect no radio packet loss. The problem is that TCP/IP needs packet loss to tell it when it's going too fast and AT&T's decision causes this to fail spectacularly at times.

The trolls read the articles. Weird.

Re:Zero packet loss = epic fail (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868691)

stfu dickface.

Why am I not surprised (4, Insightful)

Constantin (765902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868577)

Every time I deal with AT&T I am amazed that anything works at all over there. My phone almost always shows five bars at home, yet frequently calls don't cause the phone to ring - they go to voicemail after pretending to ring. The jaded amongst us could suspect a deliberate misconfiguration of phones and signal strength monitoring. Similarly, it would not surprise me if AT&T data networks weren't about as reliable as the signal strength indicator on my phone. The recent alleged blurb from an Apple "genius" in NYC that 1/3 of all iPhone calls get dropped seems to point in that direction.

That a cell-phone won't work everywhere and perfectly every time is a given. However, wouldn't it be nice if the companies that stood behind these networks would actually be held accountable for some of the advertising statements they make? What it comes down to is that we're dealing with an oligopolistic market, where only a few carriers can achieve the scale and the coverage to satisfy most mobile customers most of the time. On the flipside, that also means that said carriers can be truly dismal when it comes to customer service, back-end efficiency, etc. since consumers don't have many choices. Considering the ongoing consolidation in the industry, the only way out seems to be a trust-busting activity on the part of the DoJ to regulate the industry.

Not sure that is the better alternative... nor what the best structure for a regulated market would be.

Re:Why am I not surprised (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868639)

Not sure that is the better alternative... nor what the best structure for a regulated market would be.

There's a map for that.

Re:Why am I not surprised (2, Informative)

Not_Wiggins (686627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869083)

I presume you have an iPhone. A friend of mine that has jailbroken his phone pointed out to me that the bars represent the 3G signal strength, and not necessarily the regular network strength. I was considering AT&T because the T-Mobile strength in my house is terrible. He had 3-4 bars on his IPhone, but when he turned off 3G and went to EDGE only, it averaged 1-2 bars. Point is, I don't think the signal strength always means what we think it means. 8/

Re:Why am I not surprised (2, Informative)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869129)

Cause they aren't necessarily the same tower? Your scenario makes perfect sense. Except that jailbroken has nothing to do with it and if you are getting 3G signal, that is your "regular network strength." It only degrades to EDGE if you can't get a 3G signal (which for my major metropolitan area, is nearly any building you walk into).

Bars aren't everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869275)

5 bars might mean a strong signal received on both ends or just at the phone. You can also have a very strong signal along with horrible multipath interference that effectively kills data transmission.

I know this first hand (5, Interesting)

NynexNinja (379583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868585)

I worked for AT&T in several parts of the country on their core networks, and in the early 2000's they had misconfigured all of their Solaris boxes and I worked with the infrastructure group to implement a startup script on Solaris to tune all the ndd settings for performance. The problem with Solaris is that by default all the TCP, UDP, Ethernet, etc settings are set for a Desktop workstation, not a server. Most system admins know to tune these settings, otherwise in a lot of cases a multi-CPU box will perform as slow as a 1 CPU box. Anyway, at specific companies I worked with (AT&T Broadband / Worldnet in St. Charles, MO was one big one), all the servers were configured without the proper settings for a server, so we had all kinds of issues as a result, a big one is that the tcp accept queue is not set high enough and so connections to daemons will drop after a low number of connections, making it appear that the box can't handle the connections...., As a result, they had spent millions on numerous servers (in one situation they had over twenty 12-cpu servers just for smtp...

These changes seem small, however, changing "ndd" kernel parameters on a Solaris box is not a single task, it is an infrastructure-wide task, and therefore requires the coordination of dozens of different groups, it really took a long long time to get this script implemented. It was called "S99nddfix" and it had all the ndd tunable parameters in it. Later when I worked at a different AT&T group in a different state, I noticed my script had been implemented on all the Solaris servers in the 200+ server environment.

Good defaults are essential (4, Insightful)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868667)

That's why to the greatest degree possible, libraries, programs, and algorithms should be auto-tuning. You can provide all the knobs you want, but people won't actually touch them. They'll choose which library, application, or operating system they use based on the default settings, so you'd better damn well make sure the default settings are good --- or even better, that you don't need settings at all.

Re:Good defaults are essential (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868977)

"knobs are for knobs" Various OpenBSD dev's quote that often

Re:I know this first hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868669)

I worked for AT&T

...

and didn't sign a confidentiality agreement?

Re:I know this first hand (3, Interesting)

Kumiorava (95318) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868789)

I haven't worked for AT&T but at one point I tried to see what traceroute from San Diego to Finland would show me because ping was really slow. The traceroute I run jumped from west coast to east coast twice before going over the atlantic. I suspect that routing rules might need some fine tuning as well. It doesn't really matter if you have very fast network if the data keeps on jumping between servers creating extra traffic, I can imagine in my case the packet could have reached the destination with much fewer jumps.

Of course that visual traceroute I used might not really give accurate locations of the servers.

Re:I know this first hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29869029)

Uhh...AT&T broadband/Worldnet has never been managed out of St Charles, MO. It has been managed out of Bridgeton, Mo(12976 Hollenberg Dr, specifically) since at least 98 when I started working there. Please don't make things up.

Non-obvious cause (5, Informative)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868737)

If you take the time to RTFA, you will see that the problem with TCP management (as Mr. Turner describes it) is that you have to cause the system to drop packets occasionally when it's near but not quite at saturation, to let the TCP device at the other end know that the network is getting congested. If there are no dropped packets, TCP ups the packet rate until the network becomes clogged.

So in this case, zero packet loss is a setup for disaster instead of a desirable quality.

The trouble is that it's not an intuitive solution to a problem, the introduction of occasional packet loss. It's usually something to avoid.

Re:Non-obvious cause (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869165)

The big problem is that it's exactly the opposite of the way ATM networks are managed. They can't seem to wrap their heads around the way it's done on an IP network.

Zero Packet Loss (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29868761)

Zero packet loss may sound impressive to a telephone guy, but it causes TCP congestion collapse and thus doesn't work for the mobile Internet!

I was in the standardisation group that specified the RLC/MAC layer (ETSI SMG2, later called 3GPP TSG GERAN) and our priorities were not the behaviour of TCP. We were designing the radio layer to provide a bearer service for the higher layer protocols, at that time they were X25, IP (UDP and TCP). The "problem" we were trying to solve was the tendancy of the radio layer to fade, have multipath and generally lose packets. The RLC layer was designed to deliver error-free packets, in sequence over the radio layer. Generally that is exactly what it does, and does well. If it didn't then tehre would be no mobile internet.

What we did find to be a significant performance problem was the asymetric channel. The uplink is usually the root of the TCP performance issues, UDP works much better. When the discrepancy is higher than 10, the downlink is ten times faster than the uplink, then the TCP Acks don't arrive in time and it stalls. Sadly a faster uplink is difficult and expensive to provide.

Re:Zero Packet Loss (2, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869103)

It sounds like the solution might be to implement a custom version of TCP that takes the asymmetry of the physical radio channels into account. Since most mobile platforms have a much higher downlink packet count, a group ack method could provide relief to the unreliable uplink channel.

Disclaimer: I've only designed one wireless packet data link system in my life, and it was symmetrical.

Re:Zero Packet Loss (2, Interesting)

BodeNGE (1664379) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869293)

OP here. It could possibly be done between the IP stack of the device and the GGSN. The six layer stack diagram in the article does show the IP layer going between the two, but in reality it doesn't. On the mobile side there are usually two IP stacks. The GSM one to the GGSN access point (APN), and the stack presented to the client AP, or the the PC connected to it (calleed Terminal Equipment in GSM speak). If you tracert from the device you will usually see the device IP as a loopback address. The GPRS/3G part then takes over and spits our the rest of the IP connection on the GGSN side. The GGSN side may give you a public IP if you pay for it, but usually it is a pooled address, and not externally addressable. You could change the "inner" IP link between the GGSN and MS if it was implemented in the MS IP stack. You wouldn't need to implement it in the outer bearer servce between the PC and the destination IP. Other than that there really isn't much you can change/tweak in the network. Smaller buffers will cause packets to be discarded, then TCP takes over as normal. Setting the MTU size on the GGSN also helps. Optimum from the MS perspective is around 1400.

The Obious Solution (2, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868779)

Is to let AT&T engage in all the packet shaping and other fun stuff they want. Down with net neutrality? Wait? What's that? You think they'd manage to screw up their network even more then and probably fuck over other people in the process? Say it ain't so!

Re:The Obious Solution (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868801)

And once again I can't spell even with the help of the preview. I'll go back into my little hole again.

Re:The Obious Solution (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868941)

Traffic shaping does not necessarily effect net neutrality. Also, I'd see the packet shaping techniques of yours, are the outgoing packets rounder?

Irony? (1)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29868975)

"A Possible Cause of AT&T's Wireless Clog — Configuration Errors"

Oh wait, this is slashdot, we test on the live system.

Router fairness (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29869033)

TCP measures round trip time, and doesn't need packet loss to tell it that the round trip time is long. The retransmit interval will go up appropriately. TCP will behave reasonably with a long round trip time. If you're trying to do a bulk transfer, there's nothing wrong with this. The problem comes when short messages and bulk transfers are sharing the same channel. The short messages can spend too much time in the queue.

The solution is reordering the packets, not dropping them. That's what "fair queuing" is about. It may be worthwhile to implement fairness at the port-pair level, rather than the IP address level, at entry to the air link. Then low-traffic connections will get through faster.

"Quality of service" can help, but it's not a panacea. The network layer can't tell which of the TCP connections on port 80 is highly interactive and which is a bulk download, other than by traffic volume.

(I used to do this stuff [faqs.org].)

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