AT&T is racing to expand its network.
The Dallas-based company is coping with surging demand for its mobile services, thanks to popular products such as Apple's iPhone and iPad. AT&T is the exclusive service provider for those devices.
"It's a daunting task," said John Donovan, AT&T's chief technology officer.
Donovan said data traffic on AT&T's network is up 5,000 percent in just three years. The company currently supports roughly half of all mobile data traffic in the United States.
Critics say AT&T hasn't done enough to keep up. "Clearly, they never anticipated the demand," said Jerry Kaufman of Alexander Resources, a wireless industry consulting group.
Donovan is candid about AT&T's challenge. "We are not where we'd like to be," he said.
However, Donovan is quick to point out that AT&T will spend up to $19 billion this year to expand its network. Among the improvements:
- More fiber-optic cable to support faster 3G speeds
- About 2,000 new cell sites
- Expanded Wi-Fi service
The goal is to keep up with consumers who can't seem to get enough of mobile services. "It's become a never-ending circle of trying to play catch-up," Kaufman said.
But AT&T is vowing to get ahead of the curve. "We're building as much and as fast as we can," Donovan said.