I recently switched to AT&T Wireless because of problems with Cingular Wireless. In particular, reception with Cingular Wireless was very poor in my home, and almost nonexistent in my bedroom. This condition lasted for three years, the entire time that I was with Cingular. During those three years, friends with Cellular One and AT&T TDMA phones had absolutely no problems at all using their wireless phones in my bedroom, and when AT&T introduced GSM, it was the same. Thus, when number portability became a viable solution, I switched over to AT&T. Finally, I had full reception on my wireless phone, no dropped calls, and no stuttering during phone conversations.
Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, March 3, I noticed that my wireless phone had zero reception, i.e. no incoming or outgoing calls were possible. The time was 10:00pm. For the rest of the night, I could not make or receive calls. The next day, reception was back to full, and I thought that the previous night was simply an anomaly. Then, starting around 10:00pm, the “AT&T Wireless” label indicating reception disappeared, indicating zero reception again. Now, I was thinking that perhaps AT&T was performing maintenance at around the same time each night. I waited until Friday, and once again, I had full reception during the day, and once again, reception disappeared around 10:00pm.
I called AT&T Wireless Customer Service at 1-866-293-4634 and explained the problem. Although I was put on hold for a long time, I remained patient and cordial while the representative researched the problem. We went through a few tests, such as trying different phones, to no avail. She also asked me a few questions and gave me some advice. Finally, she told me that AT&T was aware of the problem, and that they were working on it. She gave me a ticket number, 632-667, and also advised me to try using my phone at other locations to verify that it wasn’t my phone causing the problem. I didn’t mention it to her, but I thought she hadn’t listened to me because I had just told her I tried three different phones and they were all the same. Anyway, since I now knew that AT&T was aware of the problem, I was hopeful that the problem would soon be fixed.
During the next week, the problem became worse. Whereas previously the problem occurred only at night, it was now occurring during the day as well. Sometimes, while watching the reception bar, I would see it fluctuate wildly up and down, in addition to being at zero. At this point I had changed from hopeful to concerned. I decided to allow AT&T a full week to solve the problem, but they did not, so I called them again on Friday, March 12, 2004.
On this night, AT&T was experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t have full access to their databases. Still, the representative was able to pull up the record of my previous call to assess the situation. I explained that the situation had gotten worse, and that the previous representative had given me a trouble ticket number with which I could follow up on the problem. He spent some time looking up the trouble ticket, and to my dismay he told me that this trouble ticket was regarding a problem in another area of the country not even close to California. Either the previous representative gave me the wrong number, or I had written down the wrong number. So, no luck there. Instead, the gentleman gave me a lengthy explanation on the intricacies of wireless phone service. He said that something must have changed in my neighborhood, and that any number of changes could affect the wireless signal. Construction, appliances, and wires were some of the changes he mentioned. He said that most likely, whatever began the interference would just as soon end it. He also explained that if enough people complain of poor reception, then, and only then, would AT&T issue a trouble ticket to take a look into the problem. He said that the previous representative had not really issued a trouble ticket, because a trouble ticket was not the first step of the process. Disappointed, though (surprisingly) still not upset, I thanked the gentleman for his thoroughness and ended the call.
Now, nine days later, my situation is unchanged. I still get periods of zero reception at night and during the day. I never get full constant seven bars like I did before. My phone battery lasts a lot less because of the constant change in reception, and I have to charge it far more frequently than during the initial two months of service. I also have to constantly check my phone to see if it’s on zero reception, in case my girlfriend needs to call me. And frankly, I am beginning to get a little upset, because I switched to AT&T to avoid this very problem. I also have a few questions and theories regarding this problem.
First, based on what the second representative told me, what household item can affect a cellular signal so dramatically that the bars on my phone fluctuate so wildly up and down? On the same note, what “neighborhood item” can do the same? Second, why did the problem only occur at night in its initial stages, and then “evolve” into a constant problem? Third, why is my bedroom such a bad place for cellular signals? My bedroom has only two walls that are “inside” the rest of my house. The other two walls are outside walls, and one of them has a giant window. The walls are wooden. Granted, our floor is sandwiched between two others, and the open space outside my room is only open insofar as it is the open space between two buildings. Also, there is a metal fire escape ladder outside my window. I don’t know if that would affect cellular signals. If it did, however, then how can the two months of perfect reception and call clarity be explained? Finally, is it possible that the recent merger between AT&T and Cingular Wireless has something to do with this? Perhaps AT&T dismantled their towers and used existing Cingular ones. The flaw in that theory, of course, is that with Cingular, I never had constant zero bars, or wildly fluctuating bars; just constant one bar.
In conclusion, the past 18 days have been very troublesome for me in terms of cellular service. I have been extremely patient, waiting for the problem to “work itself out,” but there have been no signs that it ever will. I have also tried to be open minded, to allow myself to believe that something has happened in my neighborhood that causes my cellular signal to degrade. I know that nothing in my home or immediate area has changed, and that I have not added any wires, appliances, or anything else, for that matter, to my home. Maybe my neighbors have added something. In any case, wireless telephone service should not have these problems. In Hong Kong, I can go into the basement of a mall, surrounded by metal, concrete, and earth, and still be able to make a crystal clear mobile phone call. The sad part is that both customer representatives stated that it was something I did that caused this problem. I got the impression that AT&T wants to provide a product that is just barely good enough, that it is willing to accept (and ignore) the complaints of a few customers, as long as more people continue to subscribe. I will be calling customer service again, and no matter what they tell me, I will continue to believe that it is the responsibility of a wireless provider to provide wireless service, regardless of where the customer is (reasonably, of course, such as inside my bedroom, and not under the ocean). I just hope I can continue to be as patient as I have been. Thank you for reading, and wish me luck!
Update – March 29, 2004