Networking pros slam AT&T for arming techs with iPads instead of laptops

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AT&T service technicians toting company-issued iPads instead of the laptops they once carried are ill-equipped to solve some customer problems, according to a parade of IT professionals criticizing what they say has been a wholesale switch to tablets.

Sparking a torrent of complaints on Reddit’s section devoted to networking was this anecdote:

“I work for a medium-large-sized networking company and I test and turn up new equipment on our various circuits. Today, the lady that sits next to me was on the phone for several hours with AT&T trying to get a resolution for an issue using a TeloIP device that combines the bandwidth of several DSL modems into one decent connection. … So we requested AT&T send a tech out.

“The tech arrived to promptly inform us that he only had an iPad. Which has no Ethernet jack. Apparently, the higher ups told him he should be able to get into their modems using Wi-Fi, which should NEVER be on in a live circuit. … The tech said it was company policy that they will all be issued a tablet for all field work."

Another Redditor says his company has taken to pre-empting iPad-only service calls.

“I work for a retailer with hundreds of locations across the country and we use whatever crummy consumer-grade broadband we can find for each location. We've had a number of incidents with AT&T techs coming out to troubleshoot their crud with only an iPad in hand. So far we've been able to specifically request that the tech bring a laptop.”

Another says that doesn’t always work.

“We told them the tech would need one and they told us they don't have any techs with laptops. Not sure if that person was correct or not.”

I have reached out to AT&T for comment and will update this post if one is provided. (One was; see below.)

Several forum contributors suggested ways to work around iPad limitations.

“What's dumb is that this (RedPack Ethernet Cable) exists. So if AT&T is going to buy thousands of iPads for this, they should be able to either make a corporate app that works with an Ethernet cable, or Apple should allow them to use it on the iPad.”

However, it was noted that the cable maxes out at 5 Mbps.

And it was also noted that AT&T is not alone in going to tablets.

“I work for a reasonable sized ISP and they are also moving away from laptops and moving to iPads. Since we offer gigabit speeds we get to keep our laptops until they find a way for us to test a gig on the iPad which I don't THINK is possible... YET.”

This is just a taste of the comments; there’s plenty more.

“I have to stop reading this thread as it's making me angry,” writes one IT pro. “Tablets are only the right choice for very specific use cases and this ain't one of them!”

Update: Here's the response from AT&T: "In 2010, we began transitioning our field technicians to handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets. This made our techs more agile and moved their capabilities forward by enabling a suite of applications they could use on-site to increase efficiency and improve the customer experience. While a majority of our techs only use handheld devices, others who handle special services use a range of tools including laptops. In situations where a handheld device is not sufficient, we ensure our techs are able to get the tools and equipment needed."

About that last part: See above.

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