While perusing the City’s online Library of Cartography recently — don’t ask! — I discovered a new map that does a lot to explain why my iPhone gets such crappy reception inside my home, and why AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile might actually go a long way toward making it better.
But before we get to that, please allow me a few minutes of cathartic iPhone ranting. Oh. My. God. It’s bad: I can’t make wireless calls at all from the garage or ground-floor office of my North Bernal home. On the second floor, the phone only works in the front of the house or in my back yard. It’s so bad that even my text messages fail to send about 75 percent of the time. The phone works great on the top floor of the house, but… seriously?!?
Now, back to that map I found. It’s an Aprill 2011 visualization that shows the location of every wireless cellphone tower in the City, categorized by mobile provider. When I looked at it closely, I suddenly understood why my iPhone is mostly useless unless I’m on the upper floor of my house: The AT&T cell tower closest to me isn’t that close at all.
AT&T’s antenna coverage of Bernal Heights is sparse, and as much as I’d like to demonize the company, NIMBY obstructionism is partially to blame as well. Truth is, it ain’t easy to erect new cell towers in San Francisco. But when you look at the wireless facilities map of Bernalwood, one thing becomes clear: All those pink dots mean that T-Mobile already has our neighborhood pretty well covered.
And that’s why AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T Mobile might be a godsend for long-suffering Bernalwood iPhone owners. If the deal closes as planned early next year, AT&T will gain access to T-Mobile’s existing network of wireless towers. (Arguably, that’s actually AT&T’s primary motivation for pursuing the merger.) And since T-Mobile’s towers are strategically positioned around Bernal Heights, the net result may be substantially better wireless service for local iPhoneers.
So fingers crossed, and here’s to a self-interested reason to cheer for oligopoly!