updated 06:00 pm EDT, Fri April 3, 2009
ATT 3G Upgrade for iPhone
AT&T is ramping up its network upgrades a third year in a row to accommodate the heavy data use for its 2009 iPhone launch, according to a vendor contact at AppleInsider at least partly supported by Electronista's own check at the CTIA expo. The US carrier has recently snapped up a large number of cellular network routers from Juniper Networks and has been working quickly to get a network upgrade in place for the end of May. Engineers have reportedly been told that the update is necessary due to a predicted tenfold spike in the amount of traffic on the network following a 2009 iPhone update and a sudden influx of video streaming.
A small part of AT&T's network is believed to have already been upgraded and providing the fastest mobile website loads that Apple has ever seen. Whether this is using prototypes of new iPhones or just existing models isn't clear.
When speaking to Juniper on the show floor, Electronista heard about a large quantity having been ordered "recently" and that the specific aim was to help AT&T's backhaul infrastructure cope with heavy demand from iPhone users now and in the future. No specific timetable was given for upgrades, however, as the spokesman wasn't privy to AT&T's plans.
Apple has increasingly dropped clues that video functions may play a significant part of this year's iPhone refresh, such as possible video capture. Additionally, the company is still believed to be planning an on-demand video streaming service known as iTunes Replay that would let customers stream any video they've already purchased on the iTunes Store. While most have assumed the feature would be limited to the Apple TV or to computers, such an on-demand feature would help iPhone users by saving them the trouble of storing videos on their limited device storage and would be more technically feasible with a faster network.
While it has never formally acknowledged steps to improve its network this year specifically for iPhones, AT&T has repeatedly indicated that network speed-ups and other improvements are a major priority this year. The company has already been testing 7.2Mbps HSPA and plans to launch the update this year, roughly doubling the peak speeds in areas with 3G coverage. Chief marketing David Christopher also recently told Electronista in an one-on-one interview that the company is launching major investments for its 3G network that are there partly to alleviate bottlenecks created by the iPhone.