AT&T announces network improvements for Columbia area

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 | 7:41 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — AT&T said that its customers in the Columbia area — and especially those who commute between Columbia and Jefferson City — should be experiencing improved service and coverage.

The telecommunications company will announce Thursday that it has completed upgrades to its cellular network to speed up service for Columbia residents who are still on the older EDGE network, AT&T spokeswoman Marisa Giller said.

The new equipment should offer a 3G signal and better voice quality for commuters between Jefferson City and Columbia, she said.

Giller said AT&T has tripled the capacity of its 3G network, allowing more people to use data-enabled devices like the iPhone.

"If you think of a two-lane highway during a traffic jam, if you open up two more lanes, it allows traffic to move more freely," she said.

Despite these improvements, some customers still haven't seen the end of dropped calls and data issues.

Sheldon Price, an MU student and Columbia resident, said he has seen little improvement.

"Where I live on Bethel Street, every once in a while the service will totally go out for five minutes or so, then it'll come back up like nothing was wrong," Price said. "If I didn't have an iPhone, I'd leave AT&T."

Asked about dropped calls and other network problems, Giller said the company keeps a close tab on any loss of service.

"Maintaining a network is a living and breathing thing," she said. "It's really a continuous circle to meet the demands of our customers."

Janet Wheeler, a Columbia resident who drives to a state government job in Jefferson City every day, said she has consistently struggled to maintain a connection on a stretch of road south of Ashland.

"It's almost a joke now," she said. "I tell my friends, 'I'll have to call you later.'"

Wheeler said the lack of any tangible improvement is frustrating, especially after switching to AT&T's iPhone in June.

"Sprint said I needed to make sure my software was up to date on my cell phone," Wheeler said. "I would go to the Sprint store, get an update, and (the problem) would go away."

She said AT&T did not provide the same quick fix.

"I went to the AT&T store a few weeks ago, told them it was dropping calls," Wheeler said. "No solution."

Wheeler said downloading data isn't a problem.

"The (dropped) calls are annoying because they are an interruption in a business relationship," Wheeler said. "If I have an interruption in the data, nobody on Facebook cares if I don't say I can come to the party."

Though Giller said the company has improved service along a commuter route, its intent was not to enable people to text and e-mail during their drive.

"We're wanting people to stay connected," she said. "We don't want people texting and driving."

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Ryan L September 12, 2010 | 11:01 a.m.

I hear a lot of people complain about AT&T's service, but I've had them for 6 years in Columbia and other places and have never had a problem (except on 63 north of Kirksville, but so do other carriers). I have noticed data over 3G has been slower since the students have come back, but that's to be expected.

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Euge Ki September 14, 2010 | 3:00 p.m.

It seems the 3G signals and dropped calls have been getting worse. I used to get a pretty reliable 3G signal north of 70 but now it is rarely over one bar. After hearing about all the ruckus in New York and San Francisco, I was almost glad to be in a place like Columbia where we had reliable AT&T service. Not anymore.

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