Mobile
Commentary
7/6/2010
02:45 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Software Glitch Brings AT&T's Data Network To Crawl

AT&T said that a software glitch caused a major slow-down in wireless data speeds for AT&T customers over the weekend.

The holiday weekend brought warm weather and slow data speeds to AT&T customers in the Northeast and other parts of the country. The problem is slowing down wireless data upload speeds, but doesn't appear to have any impact on voice calls.

According to The Unofficial Apple Weblog, which first reported the story, the affected areas include: NYC, Central Jersey, Boston, Orlando, Seattle, South Jersey/Philly, Columbus, Cleveland, West Houston, Phoenix, Northern Colorado, St. Paul/Minnesota, Suffolk County/Long Island, Quad Cities, Denver, Detroit Metro, and Cincinnati.

In independent tests, I've confirmed that there is indeed some sort of slow down affecting the performance of my device. I ran a series of speed tests last week (in NJ) and achieved peak download speeds consistently between 3.2Mbps and 5.1Mbps. Peak upload speeds ranged between 758Kbps to 880Kbps. Today, the maximum download speed I achieved was 1.5Mbps and the maximum upload speed was 245Kbps. Believe it or not, I am doing better than many others.

Threads on AT&T's support site shows a large number of people complaining about data speeds limited to just 100Kbps for uploads. That means it will take forever to upload photos to Facebook or Flickr.

A colleague of mine located in Dallas performed some network tests this morning. He didn't have any problems at all. He reported download speeds of 2Mbps and upload speeds of 1.2Mbps.

Many are complaining under the belief that AT&T is purposely throttling the network to slow down Web-access speeds. I don't believe that. There's no way AT&T would purposely slow down users who hadn't surpassed their monthly data allowances. I am sure the reason for the problems is something else.

AT&T responded to press inquiries Wednesday afternoon as to the cause of the problem. AT&T said the data issues have nothing to do with its policies. The company specifically pointed out that it is not throttling users' data at all.

The company said in a statement, "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. This impacts less than two percent of our wireless customer base. 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."

AT&T couldn't explain why I experienced slower download speeds, but it could be for a number of reasons not associated with the vendor software problem.

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