AT&T is excited that in the next few weeks, we will activate a new 150-foot cell tower to serve our customers in Cushing and the surrounding area. This new structure will immediately provide improved service to a larger area and resolve many of the reception issues that our customers have experienced in recent years. We appreciate the efforts of the city of Cushing, the Cushing newspaper and the community in working with us to make this happen. However, last week this newspaper published a column that contained several erroneous statements about this new facility and the service it will provide our customers. I’d like to set the record straight.
First, this is not an issue of Cushing falling down in the pecking order. Nor, are we refusing to provide the “latest and greatest” in wireless technology.
The main issue is that in Payne and Noble counties, we do not yet have adequate spectrum to simultaneously operate our EDGE or 2G (second generation) and 3G (third generation) technologies with sufficient capacity. Spectrum is the amount of space or bandwidth that a wireless company must have in an area to offer service.
Because most customers in the Cushing area use 2G-capable phones, we believe it is important and practical that most Cushing residents be able to take advantage of the expanded wireless coverage provided by this new tower. If the tower were only providing 3G service, then every AT&T customer with a 2G phone would have to obtain a new 3G phone. For this reason, and others, our company policy prevents deploying only 3G service in an area.
While AT&T’s spectrum in the Cushing, Stillwater and Ponca City area is limited at this time, we are in the process of trying to either purchase or lease additional spectrum, but there is no timetable for that. In addition, acquiring additional spectrum requires FCC approval. Second, our representative at the public forum never stated that the new tower would provide 3G service. He did state that the new tower — the actual physical structure of the tower — would represent the latest technology in tower construction. Again, it’s not that AT&T doesn’t want to offer both 2G and 3G service in Cushing, but a lack of adequate spectrum prevents us from doing so at this time. The new tower will operate on the AT&T EDGE network. The AT&T EDGE network is available in more than 13,000 cities and towns and in areas along 40,000 miles of highway. In other words, our EDGE network is the technology we use in the majority of areas where we provide wireless service. With typical speeds of 75 to 135 Kbps, the EDGE network provides advanced mobile services like video and music clips, full picture and video messaging, high-speed color Internet access and e-mail on the move. The EDGE network operates using GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology. GSM is the world’s most popular wireless phone technology and is used by more than 1 billion people around the world. The 3G technology, which provides even faster data transmission, requires a certain amount of wireless spectrum that we do not have in the Cushing area. To date, we have only deployed 3G technology in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, Shawnee and Bartlesville. Where possible, we will deploy additional 3G service in Oklahoma in 2009 based on several factors, such as available spectrum, available capital budget and where it makes good business sense in a competitive wireless marketplace to do so. You are correct in stating that Cushing deserves excellent service, and that is exactly why we’ve invested more than $300,000 to build and activate this new cell tower. Our Cushing customers are also benefiting from the recent integration of the former Dobson network into the AT&T network statewide, and the investment since 2006 of more than $150 million in our Oklahoma wireless network.
Moving forward, more and more Oklahoma cities and towns will experience faster and more reliable service through our future investments in our wireless network. This means not only more 3G areas, but a move toward an even more advanced wireless technology called 4G or fourth generation. However, availability of the spectrum necessary to provide these new technologies will be a factor as to when and where they are offered. We appreciate the opportunity to serve the Cushing area and much of Oklahoma with the most reliable wireless service in the state. As always, customers with questions or concerns about their AT&T services can contact me at any time.
AT&T Oklahoma Area Manager