AT&T Aims To Improve Network As iPad Nears Launch

Another day, another story about AT&T's network. It seems that the iPhone's network is almost as big a story as the iPhone itself, simply because in America you can't have one without the other, at least not without a jailbreak, a T-Mobile SIM card and a willingness to live without 3G. There have always been rumors that AT&T fears the eventual loss of the iPhone's exclusivity, and it's beginning to look more and more like Verizon Wireless will be picking up the Apple smartphone soon and providing lots of users with a good reason to switch.

And now, the iPad is coming too. In around a month, the AT&T 3G version of the iPad will launch, putting even more users on the network with a reason to consume massive amounts of data. In order to make sure that the network isn't continually overwhelmed, the company is reportedly looking to beef up their network. According to reports, AT&T execs set up a meeting [UPDATE: we've learned these meetings happen on a regular basis, and are not necessarily a reaction to speculation involving the iPhone on Verizon] in December of 2009 that laid out a 100-day plan to "dramatically improve the company's network in densely-populated cities," and since then, they have added "new network spectrum to better handle traffic, repositioned antennas to improve reception in office towers and wired more neighborhood cell towers with faster connections."

But one has to wonder: is it too little, too late? AT&T's network has taken a beating in recent years, and many people already view it very negatively. Many won't join AT&T simply because of "what they've heard." Even AT&T's commercials don't give you a sense of improvement; they simply say that AT&T "covers" 97% of America, but at no point does it speak of reliability of improvements in call quality. With the Verizon iPhone likely coming in 6-12 months, does AT&T even have enough time to improve their network *and* convince people that they have put in the legwork needed to keep existing iPhone owners as customers? We kind of doubt it, but we'll never doubt the magic of marketing.