AT&T has been very vocal about its efforts to rapidly build up its 3G voice and data network. The reality really hit home with the advent of the iPhone, 3G which many feel overwhelmed AT&T's 3G network. The sheer number of iPhones on AT&T's network due to the popularity of Apple's handset was never before seen in the current mobile phone market. Complaints poured in, eventually leading to class-action lawsuits against both AT&T and Apple over performance complaints. This has led to AT&T's aggressive 3G infrastructure upgrades, which purportedly come at the expense of EDGE.
According to a report on Open for Business(OFB), AT&T is upgrading it's 3G voice and data network while intentionally reducing signal strength on its existing EDGE, which is used by many different cell phones including both iterations of the iPhone. This is happening because, in some markets, AT&T is switching some of its cellular towers from the 850 Mhz band used by EDGE to the 1,900 Mhz band. The result is that 3G users see improved signal reception while the EDGE users are seeing reduced signal reception. Users wishing to resolve the situation and remain as an AT&T customer have to upgrade to a 3G phone.
If an existing customer contacts AT&T technical support seeking a resolution to the problem, according to the report, AT&T will offer that customer a $200 one-time credit to upgrade their handset.
An excerpt from the report:
"AT&T's executive director of analyst relations, Mark Siegel, 'categorically' denied to OFB that AT&T was advising customers to dump 2G equipment such as the iPhone for 3G versions. In a follow-up message, Siegel added that the company was not requiring anyone to switch to 3G equipment. Although that is technically true, customers in affected areas are all but required to upgrade due to the dramatic signal strength drop over the last few months."