Why the IPhone Is Choking AT&T

Apple's dataholic users straining network

AT&T is learning the hard way that with the great iPhone comes great responsibility. Namely, keeping its network running smoothly even under the pressure iPhone users put on it.

The carrier is experiencing everything from dropped calls to choked download speeds because of how much more data iPhone users burn through. People do pretty much everything they would on their home computer on top of making calls, from browsing the web and sending emails to downloading music and games. Because of this an average iPhone user can churn through 10 times as much bandwidth as the average smartphone.

The problem is exacerbated by the concentration of users, too. "[AT&T's network] can only funnel so much at a given time," wireless analyst Chetan Sharma told the New York Times. "It comes down to peak capacity loads, or spikes in data usage. That's why you see these problems at conferences or in large cities with high concentration of iPhone users."

AT&T, of course, wants to expand and improve its network to better shoulder the strain, though in the short term the company can do little more than restrict bandwidth-heavy features. There's a worry that it won't just be AT&T having such trouble, either, as phones continue to get more complex. That, and AT&T and Apple's iPhone exclusivity contract will be up early next year, at which point the iPhone may make its way onto other carrier's too — which'll either lessen the strain by spreading it around or sink other networks, too.

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