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AT&T Nervous About Smooth iPhone MMS Launch
Source says network will see 40% traffic load boost...
by Karl Bode 12:05PM Wednesday Sep 23 2009
Insiders involved with AT&T's belated launch of iPhone MMS support tell us that everybody's highly anxious about the launch, as the carrier rushes to beef up infrastructure in order to handle the added strain the functionality will impose on the carrier's systems. Earlier this month AT&T announced that the functionality would be dropping September 25 (aka this Friday). Some users started seeing MMS functionality working last week as AT&T and its partners finalized testing, and most users are being sent an SMS on the coming change.

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"Starting at 10AM Eastern (on the 25), AT&T will send out a mass text to a group of iPhone users telling them that MMS now works on their phone," says one source familiar with AT&T's MMS plans. "They will keep doing groups of phones on the hour throughout the day" assuming all goes well, says the source.

AT&T, in contrast, officially says they're instead aiming for a little later in the day. "We are targeting early afternoon Eastern time," (late morning Pacific time) spokesperson Seth Bloom tells us.

According to the source, AT&T is "very" nervous about the launch and is requesting their MMS aggregator partners provide hourly updates on any message delays or problems. AT&T and its MMS partners are already seeing "record traffic during peak hours of the night" with just the users selected for testing.

That early testing has been a little rocky, with AT&T seeing a fairly significant test outage yesterday that has them rushing to beef up their MMSC messaging servers. Estimates among those working on the project are that traffic on AT&T's wireless network will be about 40% higher all day on Friday as iPhone users fire pictures and video at one another.

Given the amount of grief AT&T's been given concerning their network lately, the company needs a smooth MMS launch to stay on the good graces of annoyed iPhone users. AT&T's taken a beating in recent months for belated MMS and tethering functionality, rocky 3G connectivity and coverage, and crippled applications.

AT&T subsequently launched somewhat of a PR offensive aimed at convincing the press and public the company was doing everything in its power to beef up network infrastructure, including additional backhaul links and towers, as well as a migration to 850 MHz spectrum in heavily congested markets.

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