Chicago (IL) – iPhone 3G users cannot be happy about the answers addressing 3G bandwidth and connectivity issues so far. However, it appears that a solution is in sight as a new detailed report suggests that a software glitch in the iPhone 2.0 and 2.0.1 firmware releases is the likely source of the problems and could be fixed with version 2.1 – without the need for hardware replacements.
The Roughly Drafted cites a source "close to AT&T", saying that that the iPhone’s 3G troubles are sparked by a wrong setting in the iPhone firmware that causes the handset to request more power from AT&T's cell towers than necessary to maintain a connection.
It is normal that 3G devices publish their power requirements to cell towers, but it appears that an overwhelming number of such devices connected to the same tower can cause the transmitter to actually run out of resources. As a result, a device may drop a call, fall back to EDGE speed or sap the network's ability to deliver higher data speeds. The source claims that "it is not the network that is fault but the interaction of the bad power control algorithm in 2.0 and 2.0.1 software and the network that is at fault."
According to Roughly Drafted, the mysterious 2.0.2 firmware update "fixed power control on the mobile." The source claimed that the internal dropped calls graphs showed that the "increase in dropped calls were the result of dropped calls due to a lack of downlink power." The 2.0.2 firmware apparently delivers a noticeable improvement.
Unlike what was believed at first, it now seems that the 2.0.2 firmware update will hold the key for solving the most critical 3G issues. However, when Apple delivered the firmware two weeks ago, many were outraged as it appeared to have solved none of the 3G issues. Still, some user reports contradicted those reports with claims of an improved 3G reception. Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock told USA Today that the firmware tackled "bug fixes" but Apple later went to great lengths to advertise the firmware update, which is very unusual move for an incremental software update that delivers only "bug fixes."
For example, the 2.0.2 firmware banners appeared on the Apple.com homepage and the iPhone App Store. AT&T used a direct marketing strategy, sending bulk text messages to iPhone users, urging them to upgrade.
Still, we believe that iPhone 3G owners would probably appreciate an explanation from Apple what exactly happened.