According to a report on Open for Business, AT&T has been Â migrating W-CDMA 3G access to the 850Mhz band previously assigned to its venerable GSM/EDGE service starting as far back as the beginning of last year, with GSM/EDGE service being moved back to 1900 Mhz.
The markets affected most by the band swap so far have been in the Midwest and the East and West Coasts where the most issues have been reported with 3G coverage and stability.
The reason for the switch is being tied to iPhone 3G sales as a way to improve coverage for its underdeveloped 3G network. Â
While this may offer a short term coverage increase for 3G users, many users in areas not equipped with 1900 Mhz cellsites will be hit with a massive coverage penalty that in some cases will cause customers to not have any coverage at all depending on the market and service area. Â
While some will suggest that people affected roam on T-Mobile, most of the markets affected do not feature reliable T-Mobile coverage, and to add insult to injury, AT&T is suggesting to any customer that inquires about the reduced GSM coverage to turn around and purchase a 3G phone at their expense in order to regain the lost coverage as a result of the band swap.
In a prepared statement,Â AT&Tâ€™s executive director of analyst relationsÂ Mark Siegel denied thatÂ AT&TÂ was forcing customers to upgrade to 3G handsets such and also denied that AT&T representatives were advising customers to move away from GSM equipment to 3G equipment.
It remains to be seen whether AT&T will actively address the issue or will continue with its internal policy of crude stopgaps in order to avoid the necessary expansion of 3G service in order to live up to its network coverage and other widely advertised claims, lest it face a potentially massive customer backlash.