It’s been a decade since I was on Sprint, and so haven’t kept tabs on their network quality. In AT&T’s case, however, I’m betting part of the problem is that having a cool enough phone degrades your network quality.
According to this NY Times article from late last year, AT&T’s network capacity is actually well ahead of its competition. But the iPhone was the first phone to make mobile Internet worthwhile, and its success reportedly drove a 4,000 percent increase in data volume on AT&T. As much as I liked it personally, I think their original all-you-can-use data plans created a major free-rider problem that saturated whatever capacity they threw at it. And their worst network issues being in San Francisco and New York, where all the tech journalists live, certainly didn’t help their press. Here in Houston, I’m pretty happy with my service quality, and it’s noticeably better on the iPhone 4 than it was on the iPhone 3G I used previously.
It will be interesting to see if their recent move to metered pricing will improve things. I would argue it would have been better still had they adopted an all-David-Gaw-can-use-and-screw-everyone-else model, but I can see how they’d have difficulty marketing that to anyone but me.