Will Verizon slow down with all the new iPhone users?

An Apple employee displays an iPhone showing the Verizon wireless network January 11, 2011, in New York City. In a long-anticipated move, Verizon and Apple have announced that Apple's popular iPhone mobile phone will be offered on a Verizon's phone network.

Sure, if you think of a wireless network as being like a freeway, that suspicion could be easy to visualize. All the cars move over from one road to the other, traffic gets gridlocked or freed up accordingly. We called up a couple of people we know who are pretty shrewd about how these networks actually operate.

Glenn Fleishman writes for The Economist and is the editor of the website Wi-Fi Networking News. He says a big reason AT&T has had problems historically is that it was forced to get too big too fast. It went from being a mid-size wireless carrier to suddenly having to shoulder a massive set of users, all because it became the sole provider for the iPhone in 2007. But Verizon has been growing incrementally, taking on a steadily increasing set of Android users in the recent past and getting ready for what the iPhone would mean.

At the same time, complaints about AT&T's coverage have decreased as it builds up its own strength. Keep in mind that a lot of AT&T customers will be with that company for at least a while longer given those contracts they signed.

Christian Sandvig from the University of Illinois and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society says AT&T, way back in those early days, was a victim of Induced Demand. That's when something new, like a big wireless network and a new device together, become available and customers rush to test out its limits. So more people will be watching videos, doing heavy downloads, pushing the system. That, says Sandvig, could potentially gum things up for Verizon but we just won't know until the systems been pounded away on for a while. But Sandvig agrees that AT&T will be very much the same.

One reason for AT&T staying the same, says Fleishman, is that those old iPhones won't be destroyed. They'll be handed off, donated, sold, and because they only operate on AT&T, they'll be right back on the network.

So:
Will Verizon be slower? Fleishman doesn't think so, Sandvig thinks it's a possibility.
Will AT&T speed up? No, but that's mostly because it's been improving all along and nothing much will change.

Also on this program, an 88-minute feature film made from clips from Grand Theft Auto IV.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...