AT&T blocks iPhone registration, in confusion between Cingular and mainstream administration software, say users

by Guy J Kewney | posted on 30 June 2007

Complaints are apparently pouring in to say that AT&T has spoiled the iPhone party.

Typical of irritated messages posted on the bulletin boards is this, mailed to NewsWireless directly:

I'm in San Francisco with friends to bought an iPhone today. The elation at having acquired the hallowed device was quickly overshadowed by problems getting the phone activated.

It would appear that while Apple has risen to the challenge of having stock of the sought-after device, AT&T are failing miserably in keeping up with the demand of activating the phones, a necessary step once you've got the phone home.

My host arrived back at 7.35PM having waited three hours in line to buy his phone. It's now 9PM and he's been on phone for an hour and half being bounced from department to department.

The problems seems to be related to customers who were subscribers to Cingular, which recently was acquired by AT&T, reports this customer: "When the accounts were transferred, many residential/personal accounts got flagged as business accounts which are not eligible for iPhone subscriptions."

From the blog traffic they've seen this is affecting thousands of new owners, says the user. It looks like Apple are being severely let down by AT&T who just were not prepared for the deluge of new subscribers. He describes it as "a shame as the hype has been so strong over here," and he summarises: "Hopefully Vodafone in the UK will sort things out properly at prior to the UK launch and avoid the fallout that US iPhone owners are now experiencing."Blogger Jim Dalrymple found exactly the same problem. He writes:

Earlier this week I transferred my Macworld business account to an individual account solely for the purpose of getting an iPhone—I had to since business plans don’t qualify for the iPhone. I know for a fact that I’m not the only person who had to do this—and judging from the wait time I’m having on tech support, I’m not the only one having problems.

When I tried to activate my account, I got an error message that said my account couldn’t be used with the iPhone. I called AT&T and explained the situation—the service-provider checked the account and said I definitely have a qualifying account.

Other problems close to home: "I see that my colleague Dan Moren is having problems getting his iPhone to work as well." He's not alone! At Macrumours, comments exhibited no less rage, but much less restraint: not for a business readership, so follow the link with caution!

The problem isn't limited to Cingular business customers. According to Softpedia Editor Victor Mihailescu, "the activation process itself seems to have a few problems." He continues: 

Some users had their devices activated and running in just a few minutes, others had to wait several hours, but the real issue is those users that after over 12 hours still have not been activated.

To add insult to injury, AT&T has informed them that activation may take up to an additional 36 hours. This is not an issue with people switching over from other carriers that are dragging their feet, and has been encountered by both AT&T customers as well as those switching from other networks.

Exactly what is wrong with the activation process for these people is unclear, but it is obvious that AT&T is going to need time to fix it, much to the chagrin of the early adopters.

 He expresses scepticism about the idea that the problems are caused by the immense popularity of the device. "This seems not to be the case. The system cannot be as loaded today as it was yesterday as in many places, the phones are already sold out, but the unlucky customers are still waiting."

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