Following a delay that annoyed many of Apple iPhone-owning AT&T customers, the wireless carrier announced Thursday it will launch its multimedia messaging service (MMS) for the iPhone on September 25. AT&T said it understood customers are “eager” for an update on the plan’s rollout schedule. The iPhone 3.0 operating system, updated this summer, allowed the popular smartphones MMS capability. Although iPhone carriers outside the country began MMS network support immediately, AT&T said it was going to wait.
“We’ve been working for the past several months to prepare our systems and network to ensure the best possible experience with MMS when it launches, and that launch date is September 25 for iPhone 3G and 3GS customer,” read a statement on AT&T’s Web site. “We know that iPhone users will embrace MMS. The unique capabilities and high usage of the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities required us to work on our network MMS architecture to carry the expected record volumes of MMS traffic and ensure an excellent experience from Day One. We appreciate your patience as we work toward that end.”
While customer complaints over AT&T’s lack of MMS capability were ramping up, a New York Times article suggested that iPhone users themselves were to blame for slow service and the glacial pace of network upgrades, due to the intense amount of data iPhone users process on a daily basis. AT&T CTO John Donovan admitted the year had been a challenge. “Overnight we’re seeing a radical shift in how people are using their phones,” he told the paper. “There’s just no parallel for the demand.”
In a statement released by the company, AT&T said wireless use on their network has grown an average of 350 percent year-over-year for the past two years, and is projected to continue at a rapid pace in 2009 and beyond. “We’re riding the leading edge of smartphone growth that’s resulted in an explosion of traffic over the AT&T network,” read the statement. “The volume of smartphone data traffic the AT&T network is handling is unmatched in the wireless industry. We want you to know that we’re working relentlessly to innovate and invest in our network to anticipate this growth in usage and to stay ahead of the anticipated growth in data demand, new devices and applications for years to come.”
While the company plans to spend $18 billion upgrading its network, the investment may come too late-AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple and the iPhone is due to expire in 2010, and a survey from the online price comparison company Pricegrabber found 34 percent of respondents forgo buying an iPhone because of AT&T’s network.