Apple reportedly tweaked the iPhone to work better on AT&T
Since the original iPhone launch, AT&T has put in motion a number of upgrades to its wireless network to accommodate the pounding it received at the collective fists of millions of iPhone users. But according to AT&T CTO John Donovan, Apple has also done its part to adjust the iPhone to work better on AT&T’s network.
Donovan told the Wall Street Journal that, even as the company worked to convince Apple that it was improving its network, AT&T engineers went to Apple to give Apple’s engineers a “crash course” in wireless networking. Apple modified how the iPhone communicates with towers to reduce the overhead for making connections or sending texts.
“They’re well past networking 101, 201 or 301,” Donovan told WSJ. Apple is now “in a Master’s class.”
Ars contacted both AT&T and Apple for further details about what was changed, but neither company offered any specific information. We do know, however, that the the iPhone—as well as smartphones that came after it—uses certain techniques for saving battery power that can bog down signaling channels on cell towers that aren’t configured to handle signaling loads dynamically. The last we heard about significant changes in the 3G networking capabilities of the iPhone OS was in late 2008, though it’s sure that Apple since tweaked the network stack whenever needed.
AT&T learned that hard way that iPhone users didn’t add network traffic in the same predictable patterns as users of other phones did. The company “is managing volumes that no one else has experienced,” Donovan said. The growing pains that AT&T experienced as the iPhone skyrocketed to the top of the smartphone market in the US have left a number of users frustrated, with many willing to jump to another carrier if it could offer service for the iPhone. Half of Ars readers using an iPhone said they would switch to Verizon if a rumored CDMA-compatible iPhone materialized soon.
Verizon CTO Anthony Melone bragged late last year that the company was more than ready to handle the onslaught that iPhone users would bring to the network. “We are prepared to support that traffic,” Melone told BusinessWeek.
That’s easy to say, AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom told Ars, “but the truth is no one knows what their network would look like if they had the iPhone.” “Of course, it’s true that others have been able to watch what we’ve done to handle a 5,000 percent surge in data traffic,” Bloom added. “But watching is quite different from doing.”
Bloom said that the upgrade to HSPA 7.2 and the added backhaul—”enough to also support our LTE buildout”—will keep AT&T ahead of the competition, which may be enough to keep iPhone users from looking at other carriers. “More and more people are going to get the benefits of 7.2 speeds this year on our network,” he said.
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