Network Upgrades Promised After iPhone ‘Explosion’

AT&T (NYSE: T) customers must know exactly how O2 UK subscribers must feel. Many using the network in 2009 have struggled with disappearing data service and unconnected calls.

In the FT, CEO Ronan Dunne apologises, blames an “explosion” in smartphone data traffic and promises three fixes – “software modifications to ensure it can better manage the combination of voice and data traffic on its network”, 200 new London base stations and “O2 is liaising with handset manufacturers, including Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Research In Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, to learn about applications that could place heavy demands on the network”.

Dunne’s insistence that “the problems were largely confined to London” doesn’t ring true – as recently as December, customers elsewhere in the UK have experienced poor service.

Separately, FT takes the opportunity to say that, as smartphones place higher demands on carriers, 2010 will be the year of mundane, if vital, infrastructure upgrades. O2 was the exclusive UK iPhone carrier until November, but now Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) and Orange are joining the fray…

Voda’s UK head promises the paper: “We are confident that our network is up to the standard required to service these smartphones.” And Orange, which already claims to be the UK’s biggest 3G network, could get to expand that coverage if its merger with T-Mobile UK goes ahead.