It’s a sore spot for many Leitchfield-area cell phone customers: they may have the latest smart phones, but surfing the Web, downloading ringtones and sending photographs still takes forever.
The problem is the infrastructure serving customers, particularly on the AT&T network. While the company is touting its 4G service in nationwide ads, most of central Grayson County only has access to 2G service, according to the company’s service maps.
The acronyms 2G, 3G and 4G stand for “generations” of cellular network service. For voice use and text messaging, the differences between the networks are minimal. The 3G standard, though, allows data, pictures and videos to be uploaded and downloaded quickly.
4G is a new way to use the airwaves, designed from the start for transmitting data instead of phone calls. Most experts say the upgrade from 3G to 4G is more likely to enhance the things consumers can already do with 3G services – sort of like the differences between watching standard definition television and high definition.
The nationwide rollout of 3G started in earnest about five years ago, but it isn’t complete — AT&T and T-Mobile USA still have little coverage in many rural areas. In Kentucky, AT&T’s coverage gaps include most of the southeastern part of the state, and stripes in the central and western regions – including the one Grayson County is in.
Bluegrass Cellular, the county’s other main cell service, also has limited 3G availability in Grayson County, according to its Web site. It does not, however, provide any mapping online that indicates where its service is and isn’t available.
But it was the frustrations with service outages and the lack of 3G coverage that had AT&T as a topic of discussion at a recent city council meeting.
After Mayor William Thomason said an AT&T representative told him last year that Leitchfield would have 3G service in place by now, council member Billy Dallas suggested switching the municipal cell service to Bluegrass.
The council OK’d sending a letter to AT&T complaining about the service quality and indicating the city was considering other options.
Cathy Lewandowski, a senior public relations manager with AT&T’s Corporate Communications offices in Nashville, said late last week the company’s efforts to improve service actually contributed to the service outages in the area.
The company is working to improve its infrastructure in the area, and hopes to have service upgrades to 3G complete throughout Grayson County “by the end of the the first quarter of 2013,” she said.
“We are working quickly on our network buildup plan,” Lewandowski said, explaining that once 3G service is in place, the company will be able to work on phasing in 4G service.