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Apple tweaked iPhones to lessen strain on AT&T network

post #1 of 47
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A new report profiling the troubles AT&T has faced with millions of bandwidth hungry iPhone users revealed Tuesday that Apple has modified its handset to make it less taxing on its wireless partner's network.

Talking to The Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan said he and other executives flew to Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus to give the handset maker a "crash course in wireless networking." With regular return meetings at Apple, AT&T employees helped the iPhone designers create new technologies to limit the strain on the wireless provider.

"Apple rejiggered how its phones communicate with AT&T's towers," the report said. "As a result, the phones now put less of a load on the network for such simple tasks as finding the closest tower or checking for available text messages."

Donovan told the Journal that Apple's designers are now "in a Master's class" on networking, having learned the basics and worked with AT&T to improve the iPhone dramatically. Exactly what changes were made, and whether they were hardware or software based, was not revealed.

The article also revealed that AT&T executives set up a 100-day play in December of 2009 to improve the company's network in large cities where users most commonly experience dropped calls. At least one study found that the company's efforts have paid off: A performance test released in February found that AT&T's 3G network speeds had improved by 84 percent.

But the Journal also noted Tuesday that AT&T is still "racing" to improve its network as Apple is rumored to be working on a CDMA capable iPhone that could be headed to the Verizon network as soon as this year.

In January, Apple executives made a clear effort to demonstrate they are happy with their partnership with AT&T. The company also aimed to downplay speculation that the iPhone would become available on multiple carriers in the U.S. Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said multi-carrier strategies are not the best option for every country.

AT&T's exclusive mobile partnership with Apple is expected to end this year, with many observers expecting the company to begin working with Verizon Wireless and/or perhaps T-Mobile, either of which would require new iPhone hardware designed for those company's mobile networks.

AT&T itself has regularly announced mobile infrastructure progress and future plans to improve and expand its mobile network in the US in order to better support new and existing iPhone users. The company also announced last week that its 3G MicroCell hardware would see a nationwide rollout beginning in mid-April. The service offers relief from cell phone "dead zones" by acting as a 3G receiver when hooked up to a broadband Internet connection.

AT&T has also met competitive price cuts set by rivals. The companies have also engaged in their own advertising campaigns which have been highly critical of the other.
post #2 of 47
Quote:
Talking to The Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chief Technology Officer John Donovan said he and other executives flew to Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus to give the handset maker a "crash course in wireless networking." With regular return meetings at Apple, AT&T employees helped the iPhone designers create new technologies to limit the strain on the wireless provider.

I think it was few months ago when one of UK iPhone carriers discovered an issue with how the iPhone handles its network connection that caused network overload problems. If I remember correctly they said they are sending a team to inform AT&T about the problem and solution. It seems that AT&T is forwarding the solution to Apple.
post #3 of 47
AT&T should be run (not necessarily owned) by Apple.
post #4 of 47
I was there for the CTIA convention, and roamed onto their network from Canada on Rogers. The dropped calls were terrible, losing network service every day while outside and repeated delays in SMS of up to 3 hours in some cases.

The biggest headache was landing in Chicago and Washington, there was no service until i actually went in and selected ATT from the carriers listed. Typically the devices should automatically find the service based on the roaming list in the device.

Pretty bad if you ask me, and my travelling partners Blackberry had issues as well, this isn't a Apple issue as much as an ATT network issue.
post #5 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Core2 View Post

I was there for the CTIA convention, and roamed onto their network from Canada on Rogers. The dropped calls were terrible, losing network service every day while outside and repeated delays in SMS of up to 3 hours in some cases.

The biggest headache was landing in Chicago and Washington, there was no service until i actually went in and selected ATT from the carriers listed. Typically the devices should automatically find the service based on the roaming list in the device.

Pretty bad if you ask me, and my travelling partners Blackberry had issues as well, this isn't a Apple issue as much as an ATT network issue.

And we complain about Rogers!

Granted, Rogers isn't the cheapest, but I've always found their service excellent.
post #6 of 47
I remember hearing about some issue related to communication proticals and packet size months ago. I was from the UK as noted by another poster. The iPhone was doing small hit and run communications that left active connections hanging until they timed out. This filled the network with dead connection tieing up spots choking the network. The solution would be a software one as the chips are similar if not the same as other phones. It in the software where it tells the chips how to talk to the towers/network.

Hopefully this fix will be in the next OS update.
post #7 of 47
I'm always relieved to read articles like this. Networking a bunch of computers together and keeping it humming is always a mixture of experience, technical knowhow and magic. Wireless networking just seems to be luck, magic and voodoo.
post #8 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by BTBlomberg View Post

Hopefully this fix will be in the next OS update.

The article seems pretty vague on dates. If the "100 day plan" included these changes, could the fixes already be in 3.1.3?
post #9 of 47
There will not be a Verizon iPhone until LTE or even full 4G is rolled out. Period, all this speculation is designed to send Apple price higher for someone's benefit. That's my take and I'm sticking to it.
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post #10 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by stompy View Post

The article seems pretty vague on dates. If the "100 day plan" included these changes, could the fixes already be in 3.1.3?

The way I read the article is that these two things are mutually exclusive. The fixes are talked about as if Apple has already implemented them and fixed software problems in the way the phones communicate to the towers. AT&T did their part starting in 12/09 for adding/upgrading towers to eliminate problems on their end.
post #11 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

There will not be a Verizon iPhone until LTE or even full 4G is rolled out. Period, all this speculation is designed to send Apple price higher for someone's benefit. That's my take and I'm sticking to it.

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post #12 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by sheff View Post

There will not be a Verizon iPhone until LTE or even full 4G is rolled out. Period, all this speculation is designed to send Apple price higher for someone's benefit. That's my take and I'm sticking to it.

And just how long do you think that will take to roll out 4G? 5, 10 years? Do you really think Apple can afford to blow Verizon off?
post #13 of 47
Lets see if the tweaking of the next IPHONE actually helps. I personally believe that there is something wrong with the IPHONE technology when it comes to making and receiving calls. The phone service should be more reliable.

As for a VERIZON IPHONE.........Maybe by the end of the year, but I wouldn't count on it.
post #14 of 47
Well if Verizon could just get its act together and do like Bell Canada and Telus did and roll out an HSPA+ network, it'd be carrying the iPhone by now. Bell Canada and Telus are just like Verizon, a CDMA mobile carrier. Now, the new HSPA+ (21,6 Mbps) network operates alongside their existing CDMA network, and that will be their upgrade path to LTE. It took Bell and Telus a year and then some to deploy HSPA+ alongside their CDMA. They even finished ahead of time.

So I'm questioning myself. Why did Verizon not do that already?

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post #15 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadash View Post

And just how long do you think that will take to roll out 4G? 5, 10 years? Do you really think Apple can afford to blow Verizon off?

I don't understand the crowd that insists that there will be no iPhone for Verizon until LTE is rolled out.

Apparently Google can, working with HTC and Motorola release phones which work on many multiple networking technologies, but Apple can't achieve this simple task in 3 years?

The only reason Apple wont sell on Verizon will be contractual, and not technological.

Adding CDMA will be one of the easier things Apple would have done, since it involves changing only one part of the network stack.
post #16 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by einsteinbqat View Post

Well if Verizon could just get its act together and do like Bell Canada and Telus did and roll out an HSPA+ network, it'd be carrying the iPhone by now. Bell Canada and Telus are just like Verizon, a CDMA mobile carrier. Now, the new HSPA+ (21,6 Mbps) network operates alongside their existing CDMA network, and that will be their upgrade path to LTE. It took Bell and Telus a year and then some to deploy HSPA+ alongside their CDMA. They even finished ahead of time.

So I'm questioning myself. Why did Verizon not do that already?

I don't think thats true. At least as long as the iPhone was only EDGE, TMobile networks could run the iPhone as well as AT&T's networks. (I am not a 100%, but I believe iPhones cannot use TMobile's 3G spectrum). If technological hurdles were the only thing holding Apple to AT&T, they would certainly be on AT&T already.

With so many non-Apple phones being sold in both CDMA and GSM versions (as well as a few phones which contain both chips at the same time!), I fail to understand why folks believe that creating a CDMA version is so hard that Apple would ignore half the US market to avoid this pain.
post #17 of 47
I am satisfied with AT&T. No plans to leave unless there is a monthly cost savings. 10 bucks isn't enough to make me move.
post #18 of 47
Here is what may be the first stories on the iPhone's air interface being at fault. Tip of the hat to NasserAE in hunting these down.

NYTimes — AT&T Takes the Blame, Even for the iPhone’s Faults (2009.12.12)
PC World — AT&T Reputation Tarnished by iPhone Flaws (2009.14.12)
O2 Joins AT&T in Blaming iPhone for Network Issues (2009.29.12) With v.3.1.3 having arrived February 2nd, 2010 I have to assume that no firmware changing addressing this issue would have been completed.
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post #19 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

And we complain about Rogers!

Granted, Rogers isn't the cheapest, but I've always found their service excellent.

I agree, I used to be on Telus, switched for the iPhone, and I've never had a problem since.
post #20 of 47
Even before the iPhone, AT&T was the king of dropped calls. Now they try to blame Apple. Mr. Jobs & Co. best watch out that their partner's bad reputation doesn't tarnish Apple's image. Regardless of the reports and promises, the bottom line is the user's experience and AT&T can't excuse themselves from that.
post #21 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I don't think thats true. At least as long as the iPhone was only EDGE, TMobile networks could run the iPhone as well as AT&T's networks. (I am not a 100%, but I believe iPhones cannot use TMobile's 3G spectrum). If technological hurdles were the only thing holding Apple to AT&T, they would certainly be on AT&T already.

With so many non-Apple phones being sold in both CDMA and GSM versions (as well as a few phones which contain both chips at the same time!), I fail to understand why folks believe that creating a CDMA version is so hard that Apple would ignore half the US market to avoid this pain.

I don't think I understood you well. What is not true?

thx

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post #22 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadash View Post

Do you really think Apple can afford to blow Verizon off?

Well, Apple's done pretty damned well for the last 2.75 years blowing off Verizon. Why stop now?
post #23 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by iMeMine View Post

Even before the iPhone, AT&T was the king of dropped calls. Now they try to blame Apple. Mr. Jobs & Co. best watch out that their partner's bad reputation doesn't tarnish Apple's image. Regardless of the reports and promises, the bottom line is the user's experience and AT&T can't excuse themselves from that.

AT&T may have been the "king of dropped calls", but Verizon was the "queen of unintelligible calls" that made you hang up and call back when I had them. So what's the difference to the end user if AT&T's network boots you off when the signal is so bad it can't maintain the call, and Verizon's network hangs on until the bitter end, even though you and the person you're talking to can't hear a thing the other is saying?

In these Apple-related forums, we tend to hear a lot of AT&T hate because most of us have an iPhone and AT&T service. I assure you, if you read around the rest of the net where there's less Apple and AT&T bias, you'll find just as many people who hate Verizon for one reason or another as those that hate AT&T.

The only US cellular network that seems to have almost everyone who uses it just love the company to death is T-Mobile, despite their network being the smallest and worst coverage. It's bizarre, really,
post #24 of 47
Apple also took away the option to check e-mail automatically every 5 minutes. With the 3.1.3 update, the minimum period is now 15 minutes. That saves a load on AT&T.
post #25 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Here is what may be the first stories on the iPhone's air interface being at fault. Tip of the hat to NasserAE in hunting these down.
NYTimes AT&T Takes the Blame, Even for the iPhones Faults (2009.12.12)
PC World AT&T Reputation Tarnished by iPhone Flaws (2009.14.12)
O2 Joins AT&T in Blaming iPhone for Network Issues (2009.29.12) .

Ars Technica ran one a while back as well with more technical background but not the full story.

I've read a technical report from a network vendor that gives more light to this.

The main culprit seems to be iPhone OS 3.0 and its introduction of "Fast Dormancy", which RIM originally created to save on battery life. This mode of operation, which is agaist the spirit of the 3GPP Specifications (i.e. exploits a loophole), causes the iPhone (and RIM + Android) to generate 30 signalling messages / change in data transfer state vs. other phones, which do 4 signalling messages. That in itself causes massive increases in load in the network. I'll leave out the boring technical details for the moment.

Add to this any applications that may poll the network every minute or two, you'll quickly see why the load in networks with iPhones has risen (iPhone seems to be much more "chatty"). It's not necessarily about data BW usage, it's about signalling load. This would correspond nicely with the odd and unsubstantiated reports of people saying that their problems with making phone calls went away when people with iPhones had left (say a party situation, where people are not using data but are texting and calling).

One operator's chart in Europe showed a dramatic (an understatement actually) increase in signalling load in the first two weeks of iPhone OS 3.0 release. And this for an operator, where the iPhone penetration wasn't that big at that point. I can only imagine what it is at AT&T, where iPhones and RIMs are predominant. BW usage increases were not nearly as dramatic.

I've been talking to network engineers across Europe and Asia about this and many confirm this.

They also talk about problems in voice connections, where there are intermittent 5-10sec breaks in voice with the iPhone. How widespread that is and why it occurs, I don't know yet, but it seems to be an issue in some networks.

If someone wants a more technical detail oriented description, I can do that as well.

Regs, Jarkko
post #26 of 47
Jarkko, I damn you for ruining a perfectly good operator war discussion with your insightful facts!
post #27 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boer View Post

Jarkko, I damn you for ruining a perfectly good operator war discussion with your insightful facts!

My apologies for committing an atrocious sin . How can I redeem myself? Some hail marys and self whipping?

Regs, Jarkko
post #28 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by BTBlomberg View Post

I remember hearing about some issue related to communication proticals and packet size months ago. I was from the UK as noted by another poster. The iPhone was doing small hit and run communications that left active connections hanging until they timed out. This filled the network with dead connection tieing up spots choking the network. The solution would be a software one as the chips are similar if not the same as other phones. It in the software where it tells the chips how to talk to the towers/network.

Hopefully this fix will be in the next OS update.

Has ANYONE been having trouble lately receiving calls where theirphone isn't ringing and you're missing calls? This started about two weeks ago for me and my Princess Wife!!!

Thanks. People are calling and the phones not ringing. Sometimes it's fine.
post #29 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I don't understand the crowd that insists that there will be no iPhone for Verizon until LTE is rolled out.

Apparently Google can, working with HTC and Motorola release phones which work on many multiple networking technologies, but Apple can't achieve this simple task in 3 years?

The only reason Apple wont sell on Verizon will be contractual, and not technological.

Adding CDMA will be one of the easier things Apple would have done, since it involves changing only one part of the network stack.

This is technically inaccurate as the problem is INDEED technological rather than simply contractual.

Your assumption that Google/HTC/Motorola (the Android) camp can produce phones for multiple technologies relies on ONE phone having multiple chipsets that adhere to multiple wireless standards, but few phones do.

Take the Nexus One for example. The Nexus One for each individual carrier (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, possibly Sprint) is technically different from the other. The T-Mobile Nexus One unlocked would still be incompatible with AT&T's 3G network because the 3G frequency used by T-Mobile is different from that of AT&T. Additionally, the T-Mobile/AT&T Nexus Ones would be incompatible with Verizon's network as it uses EV-DO. Therefore, even though HTC/Google may sell the phone under the same "Nexus One" brand, each carrier's phone would in fact be technically incompatible with the other. Therefore, each device would still become hardware locked to a single carrier within the United States.

The only solution is to include a second chipset and all the necessary antennas to support both standards in the US but this adds size, cost, weight, and battery management issues to an already long list of technical challenges. LTE is not yet the answer because Verizon users will still require something to fall back on should LTE be unavailable in a certain area, forcing the handset maker to include EVDO/CDMA2000 capability, thus still requiring the addition of a separate chip and associated hardware.

OR, to wait for someone to develop ONE chipset that can do it all (Qualcomm is now sampling such a chip to device makers). But until such solutions reach mass market, this is a pointless exercise. Unless Apple has decided to fragment its mobile phone market share by releasing two technically incompatible phones (one for AT&T and one for Verizon), we will have to wait for Qualcomm's multi-standard chipset to arrive sometime towards the end of the year before hardware makers can even consider using the chips in their next-gen phones.
post #30 of 47
Adding support for an extra frequency range is likely to be far easier than adding support for CDMA. The former would require tuning into a new frequency, while the latter would potentially require an extra chipset.

I thought I had heard that Verizon was already building a 4G GSM wireless network? It may be ready sooner than we expect, even if it is not across the country. It is not impossible for Apple to add CDMA support, but given the limited market, I would it odd for Apple to invest in it, unless they are getting something back from Verizon.

Edit: Verizon's 4G network is going live this year. The next iPhone will have 4G GSM support, not Qualcomm CDMA, IMHO: http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-13970_7-10166622-78.html
post #31 of 47
i still don't understand why people think it would be so much better on Verizon???
i have service with all the major carriers right now. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.... it really depends on where you live. IHMO, where i live and travel, Sprint it probably the best of the 3. but if i lived somewhere else, that might change....
post #32 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Avidfcp View Post

Has ANYONE been having trouble lately receiving calls where theirphone isn't ringing and you're missing calls? This started about two weeks ago for me and my Princess Wife!!!

Thanks. People are calling and the phones not ringing. Sometimes it's fine.

that happens to me all the time... then i remember i forgot the phone was in "silent" mode.
post #33 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post

And we complain about Rogers!

Granted, Rogers isn't the cheapest, but I've always found their service excellent.

Having spent a number of years in the Signal Corps, I never complained about Rogers or any wireless company. Even from the day I bought my first cell phone in 1984 from Cantel which looked something like this



I understood that anytime something placed between you and the person you are conversing with is downhill.

As for Rogers not being the cheapest, keep in mind that when Rogers introduced the iPhone, the difference in the CDN and US $'s were significant. At some points, my Rogers bills were 20-25% less compared to than U.S. counterparts. People tend to forget that the subsidized cost of the iPhone in Canada is exactly the same as the US even at the most of times when the US dollar was above ours.

And we should appreciate that while the US was squabbling over protocols, Canadian wireless companies tended to build systems keeping in mind that to communicate with most of the world, best to side with the majority or at least develop the infrastructure or realize at least that you may have to change your plans. In addition, up here, we had to buy technology to build our infrastructure from the US at a time that our dollar was around the 70% US mark. And unlike most countries in the world, we didn't have the generous contributions of the taxpayer or subsidizations of the government to lean on.

Yet all that and we have some of the best service in the world. As for Rogers in particular, I never had a concern that a simple phone call did not resolve. Thus the Art of Communication.
post #34 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by addicted44 View Post

I don't understand the crowd that insists that there will be no iPhone for Verizon until LTE is rolled out.

Apparently Google can, working with HTC and Motorola release phones which work on many multiple networking technologies, but Apple can't achieve this simple task in 3 years?

The only reason Apple wont sell on Verizon will be contractual, and not technological.

Adding CDMA will be one of the easier things Apple would have done, since it involves changing only one part of the network stack.


AT&T paid Apple $750 million to help develop the iphone. for that they got a long period of it being exclusive to their network in the US.

the Nexus One is made by HTC which makes phones for all carriers and there was no contract to make it exclusive. but the way Google is selling it, they are being very careful not to make it successful and piss off their Android partners
post #35 of 47
I have actually seen a reduced number of dropped calls in the past two months in the new york/jersey area..
post #36 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by shadash View Post

Do you really think Apple can afford to blow Verizon off?

Actually, based on the last couple years' worth of financial results, I'd say Apple can afford to blow off pretty much whomever it desires -- especially Verizon, which was apparently pretty dismissive of the iPhone when Steve first came calling. From both a business perspective and Apple's track record from eschewing outdated technical standards, I'd agree with the supposition that there will be no Verizon iPhone until that carrier has built out fairly extensive 4G coverage.
post #37 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post

i am satisfied with at&t. No plans to leave unless there is a monthly cost savings. 10 bucks isn't enough to make me move.


rotflmao!!!
post #38 of 47
During these networking meetings, I wonder if Apple remember to ask ATT about their on-going "future plans" for tethering???
post #39 of 47
I guess I don't get the joke about AT&T.

They are far from perfect, and when I first relocated to points NW, I immediately dumped AT&T (during the Cingular fiasco) and moved over to Verizon. Now THAT was a joke.

Fast forward a few years and I have to say that I have absolutely loved my experience with the iPhone 3Gs and AT&T.

Just like my Macs..... it just works.
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post #40 of 47
Over the past 2 months, things have only gotten worse in my experience here in the the San Francisco metro area (downtown and in Marin). Both voice and 3G data network service seem to be severely compromised. I wish there was some constructive way to provide feedback to AT&T about how poor their service is - at least in this geographic area.
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