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Slow Data Speeds May Hurt iPhone's Prospects

The first customers of Apple's iPhone won't be traveling in the fast broadband lane much of the time. Transmission speeds over Cingular Wireless's Edge data network often drop down to dial-up speeds.

In this week's formal unveiling of the iPhone, Cingular focused on Apple's voice mail and made no mention of data speeds. The company didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on data speeds.

"iPhone's unique Visual Voice Mail was co-developed by Apple and Cingular," according to a statement from Cingular. "Visual Voice Mail makes voicemail as fast and convenient as e-mail by allowing users to go directly to any of their voice messages without listening to any of the prior messages."

Cingular's Edge network provides nationwide coverage at average data speeds between 75 Kbps and 135 Kbps, according to Cingular's Web site. By comparison, the CDMA EV-DO Rev A network being rolled out by Sprint has speeds of 450 Kbps to 800 Kbps. Sprint says its EV-DO network already covers several cities and will be deployed nationwide in the third quarter. Verizon Wireless also has rolled out network segments using CDMA EV-DO technology. The other major GSM provider in the United States, T-Mobile, uses Edge technology.

The iPhone also offers something of a departure for mobile phone service providers in that it has Wi-Fi capability, which can deliver high-speed data access. The phone reportedly switches seamlessly and automatically between Edge and Wi-Fi, depending on what's available. But users will have to find a Wi-Fi hotspot to use the high-speed capability.

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