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iPhone Users May Benefit From AT&T's Purchase Of 700 MHz Spectrum

Users of the iPhone could see faster upload and download speeds from the spectrum AT&T just bought for billions of dollars.
Apple iPhone users struggling with the relatively slow speeds of AT&T's EDGE network now have something fast to look forward to: faster data rates to download data and video.

AT&T won approval this week from the FCC to purchase 12 MHz of spectrum in the 700-MHz band in markets that cover 196 million potential subscribers across the United States. AT&T, which has an exclusive agreement to market the iPhone, paid $2.5 billion to Aloha Partners for the spectrum.

"I expect AT&T to use UMTS/HSUPA as an interim technology," Joe Nordgaard, managing director of Spectral Advantage, told InformationWeek. "HSUPA is a huge increase in overall throughput over EDGE."

IPhone users would find many advantages if AT&T introduces high-speed technologies for the popular phone, Nordgaard said. He notes that iPhone users are often limited to speeds of 50 to 110 Kbps, while HSUPA can typically provide downlink speeds of 3 Mbps and uplink speeds of 1.5 Mbps.

"HSUPA data rates will be more compatible with Wi-Fi, creating a more common experience for users," said Nordgaard, noting that iPhone users can currently use faster Wi-Fi technology when they can locate a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Nordgaard added that most iPhone users now seem satisfied with AT&T's combo of EDGE and Wi-Fi. However, he believes availability of a more robust network infrastructure will be a boon for AT&T, Apple, and iPhone users alike.

AT&T picked up the big chunk of 700-MHz spectrum from Aloha Partners, and Nordgaard figures the telecommunications carrier has also been adding smaller 700-MHz pieces by bidding in secret in the FCC's ongoing 700 MHz auction, which is still under way.

The 700-MHz spectrum, which can easily pass through walls and requires relatively few base stations, also lends itself to efficient delivery of video. He observed that Aloha and its Hiwire subsidiary successfully tested delivering multiple channels over its 12 MHz of spectrum. In its tests in Las Vegas, Aloha said its robust 700-MHz spectrum enabled it to deliver twice as many channels as any other mobile broadcast network.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing