Students Launch Protest of AT&T Coverage

College students have long been known to protest against war, racism and other social maladies. But now students at Santa Clara University are taking aim at what they see as a new form of injustice: allegedly poor cell phone reception.

AT&T tops in 3G wireless speeds, study finds

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, students at the university have organized a "Campus Wide Call AT&T to Complain Day" that encourages AT&T users to give the company an earful about allegedly poor reception in some Santa Clara dormitories. The event's chief organizer, Santa Clara junior Kelsey Houlihan, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that between 200 and 300 students and faculty at the university have called AT&T to complain.

The Chronicle also reports that AT&T actually tried to calm the storm by sending a representative out to the campus to talk with upset students. Additionally the Chronicle says AT&T has for months been aware of coverage issues on the campus and has been working with the university to improve reception.

AT&T has taken a lot of grief from both competitors and iPhone users over the past year over the size of its 3G network. In response, the company has aggressively rolled out HSPA 7.2 technology that it says will significantly boost speeds on its GSM-based 3G network. The company is hoping that deploying its 3G network over stronger spectrum on the 850MHz band will solve some of the big capacity and propagation problems that have given iPhone users headaches in major markets such as New York and San Francisco. Santa Clara, which is located around 40 miles south of San Francisco, would logically figure to benefit from such upgrades.

AT&T's overall network performance has also shown some distinct signs of improvement in recent months. A recent study conducted by PC World shows that AT&T now has the fastest average download speeds on its 3G network of all four major U.S. carriers. Similarly, a study conducted late last year by performance-monitoring start up Root Wireless also found that AT&T had the fastest average 3G download speeds.

But while AT&T's 3G network performance has certainly improved, it is still vulnerable to the criticism that its 3G coverage does not extend far enough since it is primarily confined to major metropolitan areas and does not extend to most geographical areas in the United States.

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