AT&T’s not choking iPhone’s data upload speed — at least not on purpose

Some iPhone 4 users have been noticing lately that their data upload speeds have tanked lately, to just sightly faster than watching paint dry. (Stuff like MMS messages, online forms, emails, texts, facebook uploads — all this travels to and from your device like a highway with two lanes of traffic: upload and download.)

The bizarre thing is that this seems to plague users in HSUPA-equipped AT&T markets, which should be enabling a hefty boost. (Many iPhone 4 owners on MacRumors’ forums noted that their pre–holiday weekend speeds, at over 1Mbps, nosedived after the weekend to 100kbps or less.)

So who’s to blame? Well, if you saw Gizmodo’s post on the topic, you might think this was an evil plan from AT&T to limit iPhone users’ upload bandwidth. Mobile Content Today took interesting note of the variety of coverage styles of the snafu:

Gizmodo: AT&T Is Capping Upload Data Speeds

Engadget: AT&T having HSPA upload speed problems in some markets

(Oh, Gizmo. You certainly did jump to conclusions here, didn’t ya?)

You see, this right here is how rumors get started. You take one annoying situation plus one presumptive author, and suddenly you have a lot of irate cellular customers upset over an alleged conspiracy by AT&T to choke your data connection.

Turns out, the issue wasn’t AT&T’s doing — at least not intentionally. The carrier cites a software glitch related to equipment supplied by Alcatel-Lucent. Here’s the official 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.” [HSUPA is basically a network protocol enables faster upload speeds up to the 1Mbps range.]

So there’s no secretive scheme to throttle your data speeds, and the carrier is working on a fix (though no timeline has been issued yet). Hopefully it won’t be too long before they unclog the pipeline. But that part about this affecting less than 2 percent of customers? That tidbit is kind of suspicious to me. End users weighing on the problem seem to come from a lot of major metro areas, like New York.

For NYers, it’s like one hand giveth and one hand taketh away. The carrier just made a big deal recently about deploying an upgrade in the New York City market that improved voice quality by 47 percent. (It completed its 850MHz 3G upgrade in the city last month.)

That’s not to say that East and West Coast cities are the only ones afflicted. Our own Wisconsin-based contributor Joey Lehto reports that both his upload and download speeds are limping along.

Anyone else here seeing similar slowdowns? Or has your data speed been fine? Let us know in the comments.

[By the way, if you want to run a speed test on your own handset, you can click here to launch iTunes and snag the free SpeedTest app from the App Store.]

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