updated 10:40 am EDT, Tue June 5, 2007
ATT Ramps EDGE for iPhone
AT&T is launching an intense campaign to improve the quality of its cellular Internet speeds for the iPhone, claims an AT&T operations worker with access to internal documents. Nicknamed "Operation Fine Edge," a plan has reportedly been in progress for several weeks which is optimizing the company's EDGE mobile Internet access specifically to help Apple's upcoming device. The effort will retune many of the carrier's cell towers to place a greater priority on Internet access. In some cases, poorer towers are also receiving extra T1 network lines to prevent network congestion and ensure better minimum quality for the network. Customers should expect minimum speeds to double from 40Kbps to 80Kbps, the documents say.
If implemented on schedule, Fine Edge will reportedly be complete by June 15th, finishing exactly two weeks before the official June 29th debut of the iPhone. The timing will ensure that the network is ready for the expected surge of Internet use as well as fill in relative weak spots for the EDGE network. The upgrade isn't phone-specific and should benefit any phone on the network.
Concerns have been raised, however, about the shift in direction for AT&T's cellphone strategy. The brunt of the provider's network upgrades had been devoted to its third-generation network based on the HSDPA standard until the introduction of the iPhone, according to reports. Shifting attention to the earlier EDGE infrastructure -- considered "2.5G" -- has given other devices a setback by temporarily limiting coverage. AT&T claims that HSDPA can reach a real-world peak of 800Kbps, four times the 200Kbps speed of EDGE.
If true, the move also underscores complaints about the first version of the iPhone, which was criticized by analysts for lacking 3G despite its strong emphasis on Internet access. Jobs at the recent D: All Things Digital conference defended the choice, noting that Wi-Fi was increasingly widespread and far faster than even 3G. [via Gizmodo]