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AT&T Coverage Won’t Change Soon

AT&T recently announced it acquired access to 32 new cell sites in Northeast Wisconsin, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

“What they said is technically true, but the reality of what it means to the end user is drastically different from the picture they were painting,” said Nate Bell, network administrator at NEWWIS and Peninsula Pulse technology consultant.

The reality is coverage for Door County AT&T users isn’t going to change, at least not soon.

The equipment AT&T purchased on those 32 towers were already servicing the company’s customers, but was owned by a company called Bug Tussel Wireless. AT&T made a purchase, but that won’t have an immediate effect on coverage because the company bought equipment it was already using.

AT&T representative Jim Greer wouldn’t say how many of the tower sites holding the company’s new equipment are in Door County because he said divulging that information could pose a threat to national security.

“It’s going to take us time to integrate and update the sites,” Greer said. “From the second we sign the deal it doesn’t make an impact, but over time you’ll see a significant impact.”

Greer said AT&T is always working on upgrading and building new towers, but doesn’t announce projects until they’re finished. He said the company hasn’t announced any new towers in Door County at this time, but purchasing those towers does put AT&T in a better position to update its services without having to deal with another company.

AT&T’s website shows its nationwide coverage, and in Door County most of the calling coverage customers use is classified as “moderate,” “partner,” or isn’t available. Data service is either on 2G technology – often from partner companies’ towers – or isn’t available. Log on to att.com/maps/wireless-coverage.html for a more detailed look.

To contrast, Cellcom provides calling coverage, 3G for southern Door County, and 4G for most of northern Door County (Cellcom’s coverage map doesn’t differentiate between strength of signal or partner carriers). Verizon uses Cellcom towers and has similar calling service, but with predominately 3G service in northern Door County and 4G in southern Door County.

The differences between 2G, 3G and 4G are all about speeds. Bell explains it like this:  if you’re checking your email on a smartphone and have a 2G connection, you can click “refresh” on your inbox, walk away to make a cup of coffee, and come back to check the mail. If you have 3G you might notice a little wait for the email to load, perhaps enough time for a few sips of coffee, and with 4G the email will download almost instantly.

More people using cell phone networks, which often happens on busy Door County weekends, slows service.

AT&T and Cellcom can’t share towers because they use two different technology languages, GSM and CDMA.