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Thursday, August 14, 2008, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

iPhone 3G reception issues to be relieved by software update - report

A small percentage of iPhone 3G users who say their phones are plagued by poor 3G network reception may soon see their connectivity problems rectified by a software update, a new report claims.

Although there has been no admission by Apple or its broadband chip suppliers that any such issues exist with the 3G technology included in the new iPhone, a report by Nomura analyst Richard Windsor earlier this week set off a chain reaction of media reports filled with speculation on the matter.

For instance, a report by Sweden's engineering magazine Ny Teknik, covered by the Associated Press last night, cited 'unnamed experts' as saying the 'most likely cause' was a defective adjustments between the iPhone 3G's antenna and an amplifier that captures very weak signals from the antenna.

For his part, Windsor speculated that an "immature" chipset solution from Infineon could be to blame for the sporadic issues experienced by users across multiple continents. Yet another theory from iSuppli analyst Francis Sideco fingered any of a number of parts, "from the phone's antenna and amplifier and the radio frequency transceiver to the baseband that processes the digital signal and sends it to the speaker or screen."

The most recent report on the problem arrived Thursday courtesy of BusinessWeek's Peter Burrows, who cited "two well-placed sources" as saying the reception issues are tied to the iPhone's Infineon chip and will be addressed via an upcoming software update — likely iPhone Software v2.1 — rather than through a more disruptive step, such as a product recall.

The problem is said to to be affecting between 2 percent to 3 percent of iPhone traffic, which compares with a dropped-call rate of around 1 percent for all traffic on AT&T's U.S. network. "This is a problem, but it's not a catastrophe," one of Burrows' sources is quoted as saying.

Another source said: "Apple programmed the Infineon chip to demand a more powerful 3G signal than the iPhone really requires. So if too many people try to make a call or go on the Internet in a given area, some of the devices will decide there's insufficient power and switch to the slower network—even if there is enough 3G bandwidth available."

BusinessWeek added that the problems have been isolated to high density areas such as Boston, the San Francisco Bay area, and several locales overseas. The reason the problems are just now manifesting is due to the increasing number of activations with each additional day the iPhone 3G is on the market, the report claims.

"Two sources say Apple will likely issue a software update by the end of September—if not by the end of this month—to resolve the issues," Burrows wrote. "Apple and Infineon are currently testing the fix, which will be included in a broader update of the iPhone's software."