Apple tweaked iPhones to lessen strain on AT&T network

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 46
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,153member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 46
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    AT&T should be run (not necessarily owned) by Apple.
  • Reply 3 of 46
    core2core2 Posts: 49member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 46
    quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,743member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 46
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 712member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 46
    stompystompy Posts: 331member
    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?
  • Reply 8 of 46
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 46
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,141member
    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.



    ssshhhhhh
  • Reply 11 of 46
    shadashshadash Posts: 470member
    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?
  • Reply 12 of 46
    bushman4bushman4 Posts: 798member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 46
    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?
  • Reply 14 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 16 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 46
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 46
    ltmpltmp Posts: 204member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 46
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 46
    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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