Apple “rejiggers” iPhone to ease load on AT&T network

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Date: Wednesday, March 31st, 2010, 05:25
Category: iPhone, News

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A new report profiling AT&T’s bandwidth troubles posed by millions of iPhone units reveals that AT&T had Apple modify the handset to ease strain on the company’s network. Per 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, were 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. A random performance test released in February found that AT&T’s 3G network speeds had improved by 84%.

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.

Rumor: Apple working on standard fourth-gen iPhone for summer, CDMA iphone for Verizon

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Date: Tuesday, March 30th, 2010, 03:44
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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In addition to the anticipated release of a fourth generation iPhone this summer, the Wall Street Journal has stated that Apple is also working on a CDMA-capable version that could run on the Verizon network in the U.S.

In a report issued Monday evening, Journal reporters Yukari Iwati Kane, Tin-I Tsai and Niraj Sheth reported that Apple “appears” to be working on a new iPhone model for Verizon Wireless. The report suggested that the CDMA iPhones might come after Apple introduces a new handset this summer, as the CDMA iPhones are not scheduled to go into mass production until September. The report noted it was “unclear when Apple might make the model available.”

“The people briefed on the matter said one of the new iPhones is being manufactured by Taiwanese contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which produced Apple’s previous iPhones,” the report said. “The model that has CDMA capability, used by Verizon Wireless, is being manufactured by Pegatron Technology Corp., the contract manufacturing subsidiary of Taiwan’s ASUSTeK Computer Inc., said these people.”

Apple is expected to introduce a fourth generation iPhone at its Worldwide Developers Conference this summer. A calendar listing for San Francisco’s Moscone Center, where the event is usually held, has led some to believe that WWDC 2010 could take place between June 28 and July 2.

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 with Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook stating that multi-carrier strategies are not the best option for every country.

“I don’t want to imply that would happen in every market or that we are headed that way in every market,” Cook said in the company’s quarterly earnings call. He also specifically defended AT&T and said the nation’s second-largest wireless carrier is working to alleviate coverage concerns across the country.

The rumored September manufacture date reported would fit with rumors that Apple could launch a UMTS/CDMA hybrid iPhone in the third quarter of calendar 2010. However, some have speculated that the technology will not be ready for the iPhone until 2011 at the earliest.

Earlier this year, one report alleged that Apple and Verizon were in negotiations for a summer 2010 CDMA iPhone launch, but the two companies were said to be at odds over pricing. That report alleged that Apple could still make a CDMA phone for other markets like China and Japan, even if a deal with Verizon couldn’t be reached.

Other sources have stated that the new iPhone to be introduced this summer will bring the latest update to its mobile operating system, iPhone OS 4.0, and with it support for full-fledged multitasking with third-party applications.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

AT&T Exec Defends Company Decision to Remain with 3G Until Next Year

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Date: Friday, March 19th, 2010, 04:47
Category: iPhone, News

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In a conference call hosted by the GSM Association Thursday, Kris Rinne, AT&T senior vice president of architecture and planning, said the company is content to sit back and wait until 2011 to start offering LTE. The reason, she said, is because the carrier wants to wait until there are more LTE-capable devices on the market. LTE is the GSM-based wireless data standard that has been adopted by Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile as their choice for 4G wireless technology.

Per Macworld, Rinne also said that AT&T’s 3G network, which the carrier has been aggressively upgrading over the past year, would be strong enough to handle data demand until it was ready to roll out 4G next year.

“Our underlying GSM and HSPA networks will be able to upgrade their capabilities… while laying the groundwork for LTE,” she said. “By improving our current HSPA capabilities, we can add more devices to our 3G portfolio while also growing our LTE portfolio.”

Over the past year AT&T has been upgrading its 3G network to the HSPA 7.2 protocol which the company expects will cover 90% of the 3G network by the end of 2011. HSPA 7.2 is a variation of the GSM-based HSPA technology that has a peak speed of 7.2Mbps, although AT&T cautions that most users are unlikely to see data rates approaching theoretical peak speeds.

Rinne said that users can initially expect that AT&T LTE services will deliver the same applications that AT&T 3G customers currently enjoy and that the applications delivered over 4G will be faster and more reliable. In particular users would see significant differences for enhanced video and mobile gaming systems, as well as eventually voice services.

Both the GSMA and several mobile carriers are working on finalizing a voice standard for LTE that can be used in mobile devices released next year. Earlier this year, the GSMA decided to adopt a profile for voice-over-LTE in an effort to avoid fragmentation of LTE voice standards before the technology becomes more widely deployed. The association said that it embraced the VoLTE Initiative’s IMS-based approach since IMS “supports all voice call service features such as call waiting, call hold and call barring.”

Rumor: AT&T Apparently Outbid Verizon for iPad Data Plan

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Date: Thursday, February 4th, 2010, 07:25
Category: iPad, Rumor

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While many were surprised to see AT&T offer a pay-as-you-go option for the recently-released iPad, others were shocked to see a lack of a Verizon option.

Per FoxNews.com, AT&T apparently offered a better price on a no-contract plan that sealed the deal.

According to the article, reporter Clayton Morris stated that both companies are “still talking,” despite the fact that Apple went out of its way to defend AT&T last week, and also introduced the wireless carrier as the sole 3G partner for the iPad in the U.S.

Last week, when Apple introduced the iPad, it also announced no-contract data plans from AT&T, running US$15 per month for 250MB of data, or US$30 per month for unlimited access. The plans will also offer free access to AT&T’s nationwide hotspots. Typically, cell phone companies charge US$60 per month for their mobile data-only plans.

As a contract-free purchase, users can buy a 3G-enabled version of the iPad starting at US$629. The AT&T network access can be purchased and later canceled at any time directly from the iPad. Though the device ships unlocked, due to hardware limitations it will only have access to AT&T’s 3G data network in the U.S.

Prior to last week’s iPad unveiling, Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook defended AT&T in his company’s quarterly earnings conference call. He called AT&T a “great partner,” and said most customers have had a positive experience with the carrier.

Rumor: AT&T Exclusive iPhone Deal Could End Wednesday

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Date: Monday, January 25th, 2010, 05:15
Category: iPhone, Rumor

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AT&T’s exclusive contract with the iPhone (read: license to essentially print money) could end on Wednesday. Per Electronista, a purported contact within the carrier says exclusivity should end along with the January 27th date. The tipster doesn’t say who would join AT&T in supporting the iPhone, albeit Verizon has often been cited as the most likely pick, in part for the large subscriber base as well as the frequently cited network strength.

While evidence have yet to be provided, possible signs of this have shown up in the following leaked screen capture:

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A contract found by web site HotHardware has cited a strategy that AT&T strategy that the company has indirectly confirmed itself. The company would “compensate” for losing sole rights to the iPhone by carrying smartphones on platforms it has previously ignored. The carrier has already said it would offer several new smartphones in the first half of the year that include five Android devices as well as Palm’s webOS phones, most likely GSM versions of the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus. It’s also been noted anecdotally that AT&T has lately deemphasized its exclusivity and has instead focused on attacking Verizon.

Per the contact, AT&T has been mentioned as being internally frustrated with the reputation it has garnered through its network problems and may actually be willing to end exclusivity simply to offload the more publicly hostile customers to Verizon. It’s been hinted that some of the complaints may stem from the iPhone having a less than ideal transition from 3G to GSM when 3G isn’t ideal. Nearly all of AT&T’s upgrade efforts in recent months have focused on adding either 850MHz 3G or improving 3G capacity behind the scenes.

Once again, all should be revealed at the media event on Wednesday.

Rumor: Apple Could Release Verizon iPhone at Jan. 27th Media Event, Additional Tablet Specs Emerge

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Date: Thursday, January 21st, 2010, 05:03
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

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Albeit a new generation iPhone isn’t expected until June, Apple could use its January 27th media event at the Yerba Buena to announce a Verizon handset next week.

Per AppleInsider, Canaccord Adams analyst Peter Misek has stated that he expects Apple to announce a Verizon iPhone as well as introduce iPhone OS 4.0. The Verizon iPhone could fall under the category of Steve Jobs’ “One More Thing…” used at the end of his product announcement speeches.

Misek said he believes tiered data plans are imminent with most wireless carriers in the U.S., but his checks with industry sources indicate that a Verizon-capable iPhone would still carry an unlimited data plan. He also said that the new handset will run on both CDMA and GSM networks.

“Together with our semi-conductor partners, we have ascertained that there is a reasonable chance the Asian supply chain is prepping for mass production of a new iPhone in March, for availability in late Q2, likely June,” he said.

In addition, he predicted the new handset will have different pricing than Apple’s current model. However, he said, sources have not provided any details on prices.

Misek also stated that he expects Apple to release an LTE-capable “4GS” iPhone in June 2011.

Per Apple’s long-anticipated tablet, analyst Ashok Humar of Northeast Securities has stated that he believes the tablet will be available in a subsidized model through Verizon at launch.

Kumar has offered his thoughts as to the tablet’s specs, which he believes will be manufactured by Samsung and will be based on the Cortex-A8 ARM architecture, rather than the new Cortex-A9, with a speed of about 1GHz.

As for a Verizon-compatible iPhone, Kumar disagrees with Misek that the handset would be a world phone capable of both CDMA and GSM networks. Kumar has stated that dual-mode chips from Qualcomm will not likely see enough availability for a June iPhone launch. Instead, Kumar expects a separate CDMA-only phone to be introduced in 2010, alongside the existing GSM-only models.

Six days and we’ll see what’s what, homegeese. Six days.

AT&T, Verizon Drop Calling Plan Rates, Unlimited iPhone Plan Reduced by $30 Per Month

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Date: Monday, January 18th, 2010, 05:59
Category: iPhone, News

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The pot shots between wireless carriers Veizon and AT&T continue with Verizon Wireless on Friday cutting the prices of its unlimited talk and text plans and AT&T immediately following suit. The end result benefits iPhone customers, who can now opt for an unlimited voice and data plan that costs US$30 less per month.

Per Macworld, iPhone users paid US$100 per month for unlimited voice plan plus another US$30 for unlimited data. Starting Monday, however, AT&T is charging US$100 a month for unlimited voice and data. Family Talk plans feature unlimited voice and data for US$180 (assuming two iPhones). Texting prices remain unchanged, at US$20 for unlimited plans and US$30 for Family Talk Plans.

An AT&T spokesman stated that the pricing changes only affect unlimited voice and data plans. Full details as to the new pricing structures can be found here for reference.

For users looking to move over to the new plan, they can make the move starting today without penalty or contract extension using AT&T’s online account management tool.

Analyst Claims That Apple Tablet Will Feature Verizon 3G Support

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Date: Thursday, January 7th, 2010, 07:16
Category: News

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Apple’s long-awaited tablet device will reportedly incorporate access to Verizon’s 3G network to connect to the Internet if a WiFi network is unavailable according to Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall in a recent ComputerWorld article. The analyst went on to state that the “tablet will have both WiFi and wireless connectivity and will be available at multiple wireless carriers, including Verizon.”

His assessment is based in part to unnamed sources familiar with the device.

Marshall then went on to concur with recent reports that content will be key for Apple, and the device will be an Ebook reader, a TV viewer, “and more.”

If Apple offers the device through multiple carriers for 3G data, it would be a departure from the strategy the company has heretofore employed for the iPhone, which is limited to one carrier in most markets around the globe. A partnership with Verizon would lend significant credence to reports that Apple and Verizon were in negotiations for an iPhone deal, with the tablet subbing out for the iPhone.

Until then, we’ve got 20 more days until the January 27th media event where the tablet will hopefully be introduced. And if you can’t wait that long, we’ll just pull the car over at the next rest stop so you can get yourself together.

AT&T Cites 3G Network Upgrade Completion, Describes Future Upgrades En Route

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Date: Wednesday, January 6th, 2010, 06:04
Category: iPhone, News

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Even in the wake of rumors that Apple is in negotiations with wireless carrier Verizon, AT&T has reported the successful completion of a nationwide software upgrade program that will enable the company to deliver High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) 7.2 Mbit technology across its 3G cell sites.

Per AppleInsider, the upgrade is the first of several initiatives to be completed as part of AT&T’s overall network enhancement strategy.

Apple’s iPhone 3GS, which shipped last summer, is already equipped to take advantage of the faster tier of 3G service. At the same time, the company’s network is being criticized by customers for its spotty coverage limitations, particularly in specific areas.

AT&T has stated that the upgrade increases the company’s network efficiency and will help in “generally improving consistency in accessing data sessions” for its customers. Additional work now underway and continuing through the next two years will, the company said, “dramatically increase the number of high-speed backhaul connections to cell sites, primarily with fiber-optic connections, adding capacity from cell sites to the AT&T backbone network.”

The initial deployment of backhaul improvements is already underway in the Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Miami markets. “We anticipate that the majority of our mobile data traffic will be carried over the expanded fiber-based, HSPA 7.2-capable backhaul by the end of this year, with deployment continuing to expand in 2011,” the company said in a statement.

The company said it is designing its new backhaul deployments to accommodate both faster 3G and future “4G” LTE deployments. “AT&T currently plans to begin trials of LTE technology this year, and to begin LTE deployment in 2011, matching industry time lines for widespread availability of compelling devices and supporting network equipment.”

Apple, Verizon Cited as Disagreeing Over Pricing Terms for 2010 iPhone

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Date: Wednesday, January 6th, 2010, 06:34
Category: iPhone

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With rumors of Apple and wireless carrier flying that the two companies are in negotiations over a summer 2010 CDMA iPhone launch, Verizon is apparently angry with Apple over pricing structures.

According to AppleInsider, in a new note to investors Tuesday morning, Maynard J. Um of UBS Investment Research said that a new iPhone is expected to launch in mid-2010. Whether that phone would be available for Verizon’s CDMA network remains to be seen.

“We believe a CDMA-iPhone is also in the works,” Um wrote, “though believe Verizon Wireless and Apple may currently be apart on pricing.”

Um also stated that even if Apple and Verizon can’t arrive at terms, a CDMA iPhone is a possibility in 2010, as China and Japan include carriers which operate on CDMA networks.

Last fall, conflicting reports within chip maker Qualcomm suggested a Verizon-capable iPhone could arrive in mid 2010. Whether that handset would be a dual-mode world phone, or a Verizon-only CDMA model was disputed.

Though Qualcomm plans to release dual-carrier chips that would allow future phones to work on CDMA/EVDO carriers such as Verizon and Sprint, as well as rival 3GPP carriers using UMTS/HSPA+ technologies like AT&T and T-Mobile, those chips will not arrive until the second half of 2010. Some have said that timeframe would not allow Apple to release a dual-mode phone until 2011 at the earliest.

And others believe a Verizon iPhone deal is more wishful thinking than anything else. Given that both companies tend to be focused on consumer control, analyst Shaw Wu of Kaufman Brothers has predicted that the conflicting interests of the two companies would get in the way of an agreement.

Currently, it is estimated that Apple gets a favorable US$700 average selling price per iPhone, subsidized through exclusive carrier AT&T. Compare that with the ASP of the Motorola Droid, exclusive to Verizon, which costs an estimated US$450 per sale.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you have your own two cents on this, we’d love to hear them.