iPhone & The EDGE Question

24 Comments

Update: Looks like EDGE got the booster injection this morning.

They are talking about the iPhone even on ESPN SportsCenter – which kinda tells you how big this iPhone launch is turning out to be. The two CEOs, Steve Jobs and Randall Stephenson, are of course putting full court press, talking to some of the big media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The big question most of the outlets are asking is why slower EDGE connections, especially since AT&T has a 3G wireless network that is looking for more users.

“Edge is good, but you’d like it to be faster,” Jobs told The New York Times. Jobs explained that 3G chips were too power hungry, and went on to tell the Times. “We felt it wasn’t the right trade-off now.”

“Where you wish you had faster speed is…on a Web browser. It’s good enough, but you wish it was a little faster,” he tells The Wall Street Journal. Clearly, like most of us, Jobs is aware of the speed issues, but then why risk iPhone on the slower network?

The answer is caching – caching inside the iPhone memory to be precise. We are told that iPhone has some of the more popular websites already saved inside the device, and fetches updates from the Web only the information that needs to be updated. This gives an impression of a much faster experience to the end user. Webaroo is a start-up that is doing something similar for non-iPhone portable devices.

In comparison, in case of a 3G device, the entire screen is repainted and as a result the experience sometimes lags. I think it be interesting to see what the final experience is when iPhone owners start going to some of the smaller, lesser known web destinations.

AT&T has tweaked its EDGE network to get rid of some of the latency and add more capacity – From more T-1 lines to its base stations to additional back haul capacity to its network – so there is ample capacity to give the perception of speed. Still, it all seems to be a stop gap solution: Jobs isn’t ruling out a 3G version of iPhone.

24 Comments

billythekid

“iPhone has some of the more popular websites already saved inside the device, and fetches updates from the Web only the information that needs to be updated”? Is Jobs referring to AJAX or some other type of proxy protocol that would improve standard HTTP requests? AJAX will update small portions of a page, but it’s not widely used for things like updating the latest stories on the NYT homepage.

zahadum

typo!

‘literally’ rising costs should have read ‘linearly’ rising costs’ (figuratively speaking, of course).

there is no edit tool for this blog :-(

zahadum

“Heavy Reading” (uk) has a jaw-dropping report that suggests that 25% of carrier operating costs are on provisioning T1 (yes T1, not ATM!) lines for back-haul traffic to/from the tower.

That is shocking! (isnt it?)

http://www.heavyreading.com/details.asp?sku_id=999&skuitem_itemid=880&promo_code=&aff_code=&next_url=%2Fsearch%2Easp%3F
Are the telecoms really so cheap=dumb that they cant figure that solving this bottleneck is a competitive advantage — ie a scalable paltform where costs not not forever rise literaly with traffic?

Oh wait, i said telecoms. I guess i answered my own question ;-)

paul johnson roberts

In the fanboy line tonight, the most talked about iPhone thing was the circulating rumors that ATT had upgraded the EDGE network over night. In fact, many of us were there with our frustrating EDGE handsets running tests on dslreports.com/mspeed to check our performance. There was definitely something good (ok, better) going on. Typically I get 40kbs, maybe a little better. And this seemed to be normal. However, we were seeing ranges from about 80 to 185, so something happened. The ATT guys (not the most trained people, but they were pretty good with the Apple stuff) explained that they had beefed up the network backend and tower installations in various ways. One of the things they talked about (among just general bandwidth availability and more towers) was the TDM slots. Someone said that they were dedicating more to data (but not at the expense of voice…so I don’t know if this means anything). Anyway, I just got 190 here at my house.

At any rate, unless you have no access to wifi networks, the phone makes up for it in every other way. It rocks big time. I’m already doing pretty well with the two finger typing (I did have practice on my shit Treo, which seemed to know the end was near today as it kept restarting itself in protest).

I was skeptical, but I’m happy i went ahead and got it. On the whole this device is 80% perfect, where all the others don’t even come close to the experience of this.

Besides the EDGE network, everything else is faster than a bullet (the UI) and slicker than the bridge of the Enterprise. I don’t like to engage the flamers, but the naysayers should really try the iPhone before charging through with their standard anti-Apple pre-conceived notions that this thing can’t be half of what it’s been hyped to be. Because it is…much more than that.

techuntangled

Folks, you got it wrong! There is one BIG reason the iPhone only works with EDGE and not 3G (UMTS). AT&T has a very limited 3G network – only a few cities. Jobs gives is a lousy, lame excuse – I guess he’s just being nice and covering for AT&T. Both Sprint and Verizon Wireless (with EV-DO) cover more than 205+ million POPs (watch for this news coming out soon).

Wait till Apple announces their International iPhone partners. I bet you that will be with a UMTS iPhone (unless its Japan, Korea, or China in which case it can be EV-DO). Then there will be no talk of battery drain.

Roy Agostino

AT&T’s network has a reputation of poor data service, so it’s reasonable to speculate whether the network will be impacted by the major increase in data traveling across the network due to the iPhone. The real question for AT&T now is have they appropriately planned from a capacity standpoint what affect the iPhone will have, and do they have the correct methods in place to foresee if there will be a problem that will lead to a potential service outages?

This is important especially given the recent Blackberry outage where an unforeseen software problem led to an outage that affected 8 million users. It’s clear the demand for the iPhone is huge and will remain that way at least in the near future, so the potential is high for a repeat of the Blackberry scenario given AT&T’s already notoriously spotty network.

Jesse Kopelman

Mike: there is EDGE in Europe, it’s just that with UMTS so widely available nobody talks about it.

Tom: It’s not just about time slots, you also need transceivers back at the BSC. Where the AT&T network was underprovisioned was on these transceivers. This was because they were also underprovisioned on backhaul — no need for greater EDGE throughput if there is no backhaul to support it. I used to fight about this stuff 4 years ago. Funny that it took the iPhone to make them care about customer data experience! Anyway, data time slots are on-demand, so the iPhone would have to spark a major uptick in data ussage to cause voice blocking.

lrd

I read the Edge runs @ 75 – 135 kps. If dial up ran that fast 3/4 of us wouldn’t have cable modems!

ValleyGrunt

Om:
I would think they started working on the iPhone a couple of years ago at least. At that point of time it was probably the first generation of 3G/HSDPA chipsets out in the market, not very power-efficient, and furthermore there was probably only a smattering of HSDPA deployments on the infra side. Hence EDGE in the iPhone. I don’t know how many markets are HSDPA ready even today (you can probably throw light on this).

PXLated

Thanks Mark, I missed that in the Pogue piece. Hopefully fixed or hacked sometime soon :-)

mark

@PXlated: I think the Pogue Q&A said that the iPhone could not be tethered. Sorry.

Although this would be something that could be fixed via software.

Tom Coseven

The way you get more speed for EDGE is to give it more TDM slots that would otherwise be available for voice. It will be interesting to see if AT&T customers start complaining about voice blocking in denser areas. I would guess that AT&T would rather have non-iPhone voice customers complaining than have the new iPhone customer complaining about speed. After a month watch them ddrop the EDGE speed back down.

John

Jobs is correct that power consumption is a big issue with 3g chips. He didn’t want an ipone whose battery last only 3 hrs

PXLated

I’m using Verizon EVDO (teathering MacBook/Razr) so I like the speed and EDGE just sounds pokey in comparison. BUT, in my area (MN/WI) it is only available in the largest cities and no, it won’t drop to 1rx when outside those areas as that still requires a native Verizon tower (or compatible) and there aren’t any once 20 miles from a big city/town. So, no coverage when traveling. In the bigger cities/towns WiFi is available almost everywhere so I don’t actually need EVDO where it is available. I need it where it ain’t. If EDGE is widely avaiable, slow coverage is better than no coverage in my book. This situation is probably true in most areas of the country. So, maybe the EDGEdecision isn’t/wasn’t a bad one.
The only question I have before buying is can I tether the iPhone. If so, it’s on my buy list.

CD

Operators in Western Europe, Japan and Korea won’t launch the phone w/ out full 3G. Look for a 3G Version in September/October. It is a chip swap-out to get the network capability, but power consumption will suffer.

Dave

looks like the folks at AT&T read your article overnight and flipped the switch for more speed. I’m sure it was your article and not that new product intro later today.

Richard

4da1a46ec20cf93ee5c846a51e04f0edLooks like AT&T flipped the switch on EDGE&
link04a7d3d609129a9296bf7ac0608c209704a7d3d609129a9296bf7ac0608c2097

Mike

The next question then would be – is the US market big enough for the iPhone? Because if this device is to succeed in Europe, it certainly will not in its current configuration.

Mobile operators have paid billions of dollars for 3G licenses, and they are neither going to subsidize a high-end expensive phone/PDA that only works on their slow GSM/GPRS networks, nor increase capacity for this older technology.

And note the subtle difference – GPRS, not EDGE. In some networks there was HSCSD, but it also wasn’t enough. No matter how much caching you are doing, the experience is going to be bad. It was bad enough with WAP over GPRS, and that was B&W text!

My bet is that Apple is going to launch a 3G iPhone in Europe, and this is the reason for the long delay in the release date. I talked to someone at Apple Europe a few weeks ago, his words: “iPhone? What is that?” – seriously! He said he didn’t have any details, wasn’t allowed to talk about it, or provide any information at all. He couldn’t even acknowledge that the iPhone was going to be launched in Europe.

Ian

Check your EDGE connection this morning.. you’ll notice a nice surprise!

Steph

AT&T customers report sudden dramatic boost in EDGE speeds
Friday, June 29, 2007 – 12:45 AM EDT
From Engadget

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