Attention New York iPhone owners: your days of dropped calls and slow Web connections are finally over. AT&T today announced it had finished its upgrade of the carrier's 3G network in New York, through steps that included adding a layer of 850 MHz spectrum to increase capacity and boost in-building coverage throughout the city.
"As a result of this upgrade, customers in these areas are expected to experience improved 3G wireless voice and data connectivity and performance, especially during peak hours," read AT&T's statement. The carrier says that as of the first quarter, there have been "two consecutive quarters of strong voice quality" improvements in New York, including a 47% improvement in Manhattan.
AT&T in May also launched a Wi-Fi "hot zone" in Times Square to help relieve wireless congestion for customers in the densely crowded midtown area.
The announcement comes more than six months after AT&T Mobility head Ralph de la Vega publicly acknowledged problems with AT&T network coverage in New York and San Francisco following long-standing complaints from frustrated iPhone users concentrated in the two cities. Apple's immense success with the device has come in spite of spotty service from AT&T.
That fact was underscored by research from Piper Jaffray showing that more than three-quarters of iPhone 4 buyers so far were existing iPhone owners upgrading to the latest model. Apple has since confirmed that 1.7 million iPhone 4 handsets were sold in its first three days of release through Saturday, making it Apple's most successful product launch to date, according to CEO Steve Jobs.
One of the biggest stories surrounding the iPhone 4 launch, though, has been about poor cell reception when people cover the antenna -- built into the stainless steel frame -- with their hands. AT&T so far has largely escaped blame for that design flaw, but is hardly getting better notices for its service with the new iPhone.
"Just as with its predecessors, I can't recommend this new iPhone for voice calling for people who experience poor AT&T reception, unless they are willing to carry a second phone on a network that works better for them," wrote The Wall Street Journal tech guru Walt Mossberg, in his review of the iPhone 4 last week.
I'll leave it up to New York iPhone owners to weigh in on whether AT&T service has significantly improved in recent months. Is weak reception a thing of the past?