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AT&T's New Network May Not Help Your Old iPhone

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main-rightApple (s aapl) unveiled the new iPhone today, and once again the device is inspiring lust while the network inspires loathing. While a lot of sites are hacked off that AT&T (s T) will not support tethering (using your phone as a modem) and MMS picture messaging on the iPhone 3G right away, owners of older 3G iPhones in the U.S. may have a bigger beef. Sources are telling me — and AT&T doesn’t deny — that the network upgrades AT&T announced two weeks ago won’t boost the old 3G iPhone’s data connections to the promised 7.2 Mbps speeds.

AT&T said today that the latest iPhone, which will be in stores on June 19, will be able to use the soon-to-be-launched HSPA networks, which could theoretically reach speeds of 7.2 Mbps down. From its release:

iPhone 3G S will be compatible with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 technology, which offers theoretical peak download speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps, though actual speeds will vary as these capabilities become available. AT&T plans to begin deploying HSPA 7.2 later this year, with completion expected in 2011.

What it doesn’t say, however, is whether or not the existing 3G iPhone will be compatible with the network upgrades. I asked AT&T about this last month, and was sent a link to the AT&T web site noting that the original iPhone is HSPA compatible in the 850 MHz spectrum band that AT&T is using to augment its 3G coverage. When I specifically asked if this meant the device could reach HSPA 7.2 speeds, however, I was not given an answer. I asked the question again today and was again pointed to the aforementioned link on the web site.

The original iPhone 3G won’t, according to various people I’ve spoken with, be able to zip along at the fastest speeds offered by the network upgrade because of its hardware limitations. The Infineon chip inside the phone has the capability to offer HSPA in three bands, including the ones AT&T is using, but the antennas and power amplifiers inside the phone may not give it the boost it needs to offer those speeds without consuming too much power, or even at all.  Apple has so far not responded to my requests for comment. Readers may be able to help us by letting us know if they can run the iPhone 3G at speeds close to 7.2 Mbps on other HSPA networks around the world.

As for the complaints about the new iPhone, AT&T spokesman Seth Bloom says AT&T plans to offer tethering, but “has no announcement at this time,” and notes that MMS support will come later this summer. “We absolutely will offer MMS on iPhone 3G S in the late summer once we complete some system upgrades that will ensure our customers have the best experience with MMS. These upgrades are unrelated to our 3G network.”

11 Responses to “AT&T's New Network May Not Help Your Old iPhone”

  1. I’d be happier if they would “complete some system upgrades that will ensure our customers have the best experience with” getting a freaking signal..

  2. Interconnect

    3G iPhone announced $99 aren’t upgradeable to take advantage of the enchanced AT&T’s HSPA. AT&T customers subscribing with the old sets would want to switch over should be allowed as their purchases investments will die otherwise.

  3. I had four major takeaways from the WWDC keynote yesterday, and one of them was, “AT&T-Apple Marriage: This Can’t End Well.” For more fodder on my reasoning, and the other three takeaways, check out my post:

    Apple WWDC Keynote Analysis: Punishing the Wizard, Part Two



  4. Those who want latest of latest and fastest of fastest will upgrade their phone anyway. I’m ok with my iPhone 3G now and I wish to keep it for 2 years or more or until some killer feature come out. Safari on 3G is not very fast, even with Wifi network. HSPA alone is not the reason for me to upgrade.

  5. CDMA issue notwithstanding, Apple should get the 3GS on Verizon. Just put that dual CDMA/GSM Qualcomm chip that RIM uses in the darn thing a get access to VZW’s sweet demographics and 86 million potential new customers!

    yeah, I know ATT has some exclusivity, but their network just ruins the iphone experience. Apple knew ATT had these issues and should have made network and customer service milestones a condition of their iphone exclusivity renewal.

  6. This makes me further unhappy and I severely wish another carrier would pick up the iPhone in the US. ATT wouldn’t dare treat us like this if they had competition.

    • Why blame the carrier? They’re not in the business of selling devices. Don’t you think Apple knew AT&T’s network upgrade plans while they were developing the iPhone 3G? Apple wasn’t going to wait around for chip manufacturers to provide a HDPA 7.2 chipset while sales of the original iPhone began its downturn. Apple put out a product that would be ‘hot’ for the next year only, with the intention of selling even more iPhones (new and upgrades) the following year.

      Well the following year is here, and not surprisingly, a new device (iPhone 3G S) will support today’s latest and greatest speeds. (translates to Fall 2009 for the start of AT&T’s HSPA 7.2mbps implementation nationwide)

      It’s a pity that Verizon and Sprint won’t have any incremental speed/bandwidth improvements to speak of for the next couple years…until 4G becomes a national reality. At least AT&T is offering their customers the scalability from 1.7 -> 7.2 -> 14mbps -> 4G/LTG along the way.

      Why would Apple make a detrimental move towards a CDMA iPhone, when CDMA only has another two years on the planet? It would take engineers several months just to redesign the socket on which to mount the dual Q-comm chipset anyway. When AT&T’s exclusivity agreement comes up for renewal in 2011, perhaps the iPhone 4G will become a multi-carrier platform.

  7. Steven Roussey

    It is the *upload* speed that really matters at this point. And the original 3G didn’t have the fast HSUPA upload (it still uses EDGE), thus there is a lot of latency in downloading something like a webpage with many requests.