ATandT Blames Network Slowdown on Alcatel-Lucent

AT&T is attributing recent slow speeds of some of its 3G HSUPA-capable smartphones, such as the iPhone 4, to faulty software on Alcatel-Lucent equipment. A fix is planned but not yet scheduled.

iPhone 4 owners and other AT&T customers who've recently experienced a debilitating slowdown in data speeds have Alcatel-Lucent to blame, the carrier indicated in a July 7 statement.

According to AT&T, a software problem in some equipment made by Alcatel-Lucent is stunting the performance of devices on AT&T's 3G HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access) network.

"AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent jointly identified a software defect-triggered under certain conditions-that impacted uplink performance for Laptop Connect and smartphone customers using 3G HSUPA-capable wireless devices in markets with Alcatel-Lucent equipment," AT&T said in a statement.

An AT&T spokesperson declined to comment on what those defect-triggering conditions are. The Alcatel-Lucent equipment, according to CNET, is being used in areas that include New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

"This impacts less than 2 percent of our wireless customer base," the statement continued. "While Alcatel-Lucent develops the appropriate software fix, we are providing normal 3G uplink speeds and consistent performance for affected customers with HSUPA-capable devices."

In mid-2008, AT&T completed the deployment of HSUPA technology across its existing 3G network. It was said to result in an increase of uplink speeds from what was a high end of 800K bps to 1.2M bps. As for when AT&T customers can expect the situation to improve, AT&T spokesperson Jenny Bridges told eWEEK, "We don't have a definitive time for a software fix at this point. We expect to know that soon."

That the problem was on Alcatel-Lucent's end likely came as an enormous relief to AT&T, which has suffered a number of barbs about its network as it struggles to keep up with the data needs of iPhone customers. (In late June, AT&T improved its coverage in New York, which has proven to be one of its toughest-to-support service areas.)

Following the debut of Apple's iPhone 4, AT&T ducked another blow, when users complaining of sudden drops in service bars were told that Apple had been using the wrong formula for determining signal strength. Although Apple addressed the matter, saying its staff was as stunned as anyone to discover the problem, it didn't prevent AT&T from being included in a lawsuit filed by iPhone 4 owners, accusing Apple and AT&T of knowingly selling defective devices.