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AT&T: 2.5G upgrades won't make iPhone Web surfing faster

AT&T has been upgrading its 2.5G EDGE network, but it won't likely change the speed at which new iPhone users can surf the mobile Net.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

AT&T says it has spent an additional $50 million in the months leading up to the iPhone launch to upgrade and add more capacity to its 2.5G EDGE network, but a company official said that subscribers shouldn't expect to surf the mobile Net any faster.

"We don't want to set unrealistic expectations," said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for AT&T. "We have been upgrading the network on an ongoing basis, and we've made an additional investment in anticipation of demand for the iPhone."

AT&T has spent over $16 billion since 2005 upgrading the EDGE network.

The iPhone has been criticized for the fact that it works on AT&T's 2.5G network instead of its faster 3G network. But in the last few days, some AT&T subscribers have been reporting noticeably faster data speeds using their 2.5G handsets. And there has been speculation that AT&T gave EDGE a "boost" in the days and weeks leading up to the launch, which happens Friday at 6 p.m. local time.

But AT&T's Siegel said that what customers are likely experiencing are bursts in speed.

"The connection speed depends on so many things," he said. "It depends on the site you're connecting to or the size of the file you're downloading. And sometimes users experience bursts that are above what is typical."

He said the company has not changed what it cites as the average data rates for the EDGE network. He said on average subscribers should expect between 100 kilobits per second and 130kbps.

But even if some users get bursts of faster speeds from time to time, the EDGE network is still much slower than a 3G network. AT&T's 3G network, which uses a technology called HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), gets average data rates of between 400kbps and 700kbps. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, which use a 3G technology called EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized), also offer data rates between 400kbps and 700kbps.

So unfortunately, for all the soon-to-be iPhone users, AT&T hasn't magically increased the speed of its network. For truly faster speeds, iPhone fans will have to wait for the next-generation device that will work on a 3G network.