- Cingular -

07/15/2006: I received information back from Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Withey Coluccio - the law firm handling the AT&T Wireless/Cingular case. Unfortunately I myself don't qualify to be in the class, as I signed on post-AT&T Wireless - even though my handsets are always configured to use the AT&T Wireless network, I wasn't ever an AT&T Wireless customer.

Enough about me though! Here is some pertinent contact information regarding the issue:

There's a web site regarding the issue at

E-Mail and phone contact information of the paralegals handling the case:
(Provided by the Seattle Times)
Kerri Gettmann:
kerrig AT
(206) 826-8201

Kristin Michaud:
kristinm AT
(206) 826-8219

Also, below is a map that I will try to continue to update with known-bad sites of service where even though Cingular claims there is good signal on their below map, there either never was, or now isn't due to their poor network.

Waypoints are of the format:
Type of Waypoint
Location of Waypoint
Signal type of Waypoint for cell sites, Signal readout of Waypoint for User Sites (Reference measurement is the meter on my Nokia phone that uses a 7-bar meter. 0 bars can still be considered service, but it's very unstable. One needs about 2 bars of service for a barely-stable call.)
For User Sites, the primary recived cell site at this location

While using the handset signal meter isn't as accurate as using RSSI, it should at least be accurate enough to portray where one can make or not make a cellular call, which is really all that matters to the end-user.

One thing to keep in mind with these signal measurements however, they are measured with the handset raised in the air, like when one one holds their handset to make a call. This of course, is dangerous while driving, but on Cingular's network in this area, if your phone is in your pocket or purse, and connected to you via a headset, the call will either not work, or drop due to the extremely poor level of service.

07/10/2006: This is the beginning of my documentation of Cingular's horrible network "upgrades" that are currently taking place in Michigan. My specific focus right now is the Flint area and surrounding towns.

So what happened?
Cingular decided to take something wonderful, the old AT&T Wireless 1900MHz GSM network left over from pre-merger with ATTWS and BREAK it. Before they decided to upgrade cell sites such as the one pictured below, coverage was better, network stability was wonderful, as long as your phone was set up to "prefer Blue" then you got wonderful service everywhere!

I talked to the engineers installing the network upgrade on this particular cell site pictured below, they said they were taking the old ATTWS 1900MHz GSM site and upgrading it with new antennas, new radios, so it could handle dualband 850Mz/1900MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE (and I am sure a UMTS upgrade migration path.) He also said there was a capacity update at the base station to handle the addition of the new 850MHz traffic. So overall I was geeked!

I was wondering why they decided to replace a triple-antenna assembly with a dual-antenna assembly (per sector.) Generally speaking "the more the merrier," with antennas, although with more modern antenna technology there can be slightly better performance with fewer radiating elements. It is definitely not true in this case. At my parents' house north of town, as one example, 3 miles away line-of-sight with that water tower-based cell site, we were able to get the north side elements and use our phones indoors with 1 to 2 "bars" of signal (out of 7 on the better Nokia handsets.) Post-upgrade, we can barely even capture enough signal to register 1 "bar" of signal outside the house! Indoors is now a no-service area.

So much for an upgrade.

To top it all off, Cingular's customer service, which is allegedly what Cingular is touting as improving in these dark times, is definitely NOT improving, and rather clueless as to what happens when networks get worse. The several reps I conversed with via e-mail swore that coverage was perfectly fine according to their magical street-level coverage map system. A system that hasn't been updated to account for the recent cell site updates obviously, so it is in no way accurate. In fact here is Cingular's Street Level Coverage Viewer - check it out!

Their response? The network's being worked on - good luck, and tough shit. Never mind the site in question has already been done for over a week, it's still "being worked on" by phantom gnomes. Corporations really have to stop feeding customers hollow empty GARBAGE answers, people see right through it and just get pissed off.

So where did they screw up?
One place is clearly using inferior hardware and lazy installation practices compared to the previous network operator (ATTWS). In a 3-antenna-per-sector system they generally use the two outer antennas for receiving and the middle element for sending, to maximize spectral separation of receiving elements and yield better long-range performance on a site. The 2-antenna-per-sector system just splits send on one side, receive on the other. Not to mention each antenna is carrying both 850MHz and 1900MHz in the same assembly. These two frequencies are far enough apart to be spectrally isolated, but an antenna designed to cover two frequencies "well" will not be as good as an antenna designed to do ONE frequency GOOD. The radiating elements for both can affect the radiated power output of the elements adversely. At short distances this loss is negligible, but at far distances, like north of town several miles, this difference - as well as the lack of a secondary receiving antenna to combine weak handset signals results in: LESS BARS IN LESS PLACES - aka NO SERVICE.

(Click on the after images for larger versions of them.)

This is a far shot of one cell site in Davison, Michigan pre-upgrade - actually about one year before the upgrade.

This is a close shot of the cell site about one month before the "upgrade" started. Note the three 1900MHz antenna elements per sector and the neat clean cabling job.

This is a far shot of the cell site post-upgrade. Note that they completely removed the central element.

This is a close-up of the shoddy installation. The antennas were slapped on with very wide and sloppy service loops that will result in water dripping down onto the antennas instead of away from...not to mention more technical issues I'm sure I am not qualified enough to recognize. It's clearly not a very quality install!

I only hope Cingular comes to their senses and stops shirking their duty to keep a constant level of service quality instead of degrading service. Like many corporations they don't seem to realize the customer controls their very existence. Their continued ignorance on proper network maintenance and migration paths will result in the inevitable decline of their service to 2nd place to Verizon (which is scary in itself) and hopefully onward towards bankruptcy unless they learn to improve their practices and actually and truly improve their customer service to keep true to their press release.


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