Reports out of France indicate that Orange, the iPhone's officially sanctioned carrier there, may be artificially bridling the device's network throughput, forcing it to use slower 3G data rates where significantly faster 3G data rates are available.
iPhone users in France have reported download speeds between 350 and 450 kbps typical of 3G, but slower than generally offered by 3G /HSDPA. The iPhone's hardware expressly sports full HSDPA capabilities, and Orange's network is advertised as HSDPA compatible, meaning that users should experience speeds that are between three and six times higher. The iPhone 3G is capable of attaining these higher speeds when linked to networks other than Orange, such as SFR in France and various other European providers.
Most interesting, an iPhone Atlas reader purports that some users have achieved the higher data rates with Orange thanks to a software-based change enacted by customer service representatives.
Thomas Burgel writes:
"A very few lucky iPhone users could get their Orange subscription unlocked by Orange technicians: much higher downloading speeds are, technically, possible on Orange's network."
Burgel also shares the anecdote of an Orange customer who allegedly received some spurious information followed by an odd denial from company representatives:
"An Orange representative unofficially got in touch with one of forum members. He first acknowledged a technical problem on Orange side, and said they were working on it. Unsatisfied with this response, the forum went on speculating. Now, the most interesting part of this story : the same rep got in touch again with the same forum member, and changed his version of the facts, clearly blaming Apple for these downloading speeds. Yes, Orange can settle the problem on his side, but this would require a modification on the device side that Apple wouldn't accept."
Meanwhile, screnshots showing the discrpancy between a throttled and allegedly full-speed iPhone 3G on Orange's network have surfaced: