updated 03:40 pm EST, Mon February 23, 2009
ATT on 3G and iPhone
AT&T Mobility chief Ralph de la Vega today said in an interview that the company is focusing on its 3G network and is confident in its relationship with Apple. The senior official tells Engadget that the provider expects to finish covering the New York and San Francisco areas with HSPA networks by the end of 2009 and that many of the major cities using the 1,900MHz band for the 3G service will switch to the 850MHz band, which has a longer range and penetrates more readily indoors.
De la Vega also reiterates AT&T's plans to upgrade to 20Mbps 3G this year, which he believes will last between one year and a "year and a half" before the carrier switches to 4G in or before 2011.
On Apple, the executive declines to provide any advance information on its device plans but says that he expects continued software updates to improve the iPhone's performance on the network, including carrier-specific patches. While he also doesn't provide specifics of the iPhone's dropped-call rate, de la Vega puts it roughly in the middle with some devices having more connection problems while others have less.
He also doesn't indicate any change in the relationships between Apple and AT&T, and echoes a positive outlook on iPhones which sees them as a net benefit to AT&T.
"Our relationship has never been better," de la Vega says. "Both companies are doing well, we already like what we have seen. The App Store has already been a huge hit beyond anyone's imagination that it could take off so fast and do so well, so I think that everybody's pretty thrilled about where we are today."
The company veteran finally sees a warmer reception for Nokia devices. Although Nokia has lately been forced to sell its devices unlocked at full price to offer devices that support AT&T's network, de la Vega notes that pressure has been stepped up on Nokia to release more devices with US 3G support at the same time as European versions and to even release some devices as US-first. A new San Diego design office is creating phones with AT&T in mind and should improve Nokia's normally Euro-centric focus.