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The blog post “Admitting You Have a Problem Is the First Step, AT&T” by John Paczkowski from All Things Digital, regarding an AT&T’s iPhone application to track down network issues prompted me to elaborate and make some clarifications about wireless telecommunications.

[Poor] wireless coverage, network performance, and dropped calls, all are very different stories. Coverage is different from signal drop. If you look closely and attentively at the application interface, ‘dropped call’ and ‘no coverage’ are two different buttons. Quiz question: How do you determine which of these two buttons ‘dropped call’ or ‘no coverage’ to tap?

John, just want to clarify some fine points regarding “it is somewhat remarkable to learn that AT&T isn’t really sure of where, exactly, the holes in its network are.” I believe you have touched a very sensitive fiber and a non-trivial topic regarding wireless telecommunications.

No, it is not remarkable AT&T is not really sure where at. It is very difficult to know WHERE exactly those “holes” are IF the networking/communications devices are all working right (no holes), because the issue can be the wireless signal being lost. The [telecommunications] network is a huge huge collection of networking hardware and devices, and no doubt AT&T knows when and where the problem is if it is a networking device malfunction; but when it is because of something else (usually the signal itself), they do not look for a hole, they just need to try re-establish signal/service. I would say it is remarkable AT&T is addressing its network issues.

Yes, sometimes “network holes” might be networking/communications hardware malfunctions but that’s not always the case. Wireless signals can be brought down [and sometimes very easily] for a number of reasons… earth, wind and fire (kidding).

See, wireless electromagnetic signals (waves) “struggle” when travelling (air travel) through concrete walls (means mostly buildings), or even through strong winds. Needless to say that thunderstorms bring wireless communications, and sometimes wired, down; tell me, where in the network is the “hole” when the problem was the signal brought down?

Did you know that GPS devices do not work indoors? Have you seen most GPS devices are placed on top of the car dashboard and very close to the windshield? Do you know why? Because GPS device needs to view/receive the wireless signal from the satellite.

Do you remember some years back getting into an elevator would cause your cellular call dropped [dead]?

Believe it or not, on these days of so advanced technology, electromagnetic signals (digital or analog) although stronger they remain/retain pretty much the same weaknesses as before. The digital world/digital signaling (Sounds familiar? all things digital) made things a lot easier for carriers to keep signal up and running regardless of earth, wind, fire, shine, light rain, or [heavy] snow.

Put simple, assuming it is not a networking device malfunction (sim card, cell phone radio, antennas, relayers, routers, switches, etc. etc. etc.), when your cellular call is dropped the cause could have been the [series of] walls, the wind, the rain, the thunderstorm, the icestorm, or the [heavy] snow fall, very much in that order, and it is hard to know where the hole in the network is becuase there is not one.

Admitting we don’t know some [digital] things is a very good [first or second or… you pick] step most of the times.

Questo, que lotro…., salud!

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