Apple iPhone ‘jamming’ parts of Duke’s wireless network?

“Apple Inc.’s flashy new iPhones may be jamming parts of the wireless network at Duke University, where technology officials worked with the company Wednesday to fix problems before classes begin next month,” Mike Baker reports for The Associated Press.

“Bill Cannon, a Duke technology spokesman, said an analysis of traffic found that iPhones flooded parts of the campus’ wireless network with access requests — 10,000 times per second — freezing parts of the system for 10 minutes at a time,” Baker reports. “While the network has 100 to 150 iPhones registered, a single iPhone was powerful enough to cause the problem, Cannon said ‘The scale of the problem is very small right now,’ said Cannon, adding that the school is working with Apple and Cisco Systems Inc., Duke’s network equipment provider, to pinpoint the problem. ‘But the more iPhones that are around, the more they could be knocking on the door for access.'”

MacDailyNews Take: Cisco. Ironic.
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Analysts: Apple tops Cisco in iPhone agreement – February 22, 2007
Cisco and Apple reach agreement on ‘iPhone’ trademark – February 21, 2007

Baker continues, “Ashok Agrawala, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, speculated that both the phone and Duke’s network are to blame for the glitches at the university. Agrawala said the phones could be struggling to regain a connection with a wireless access point, possibly when a wireless hotspot hands off to another.”

“Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, said the company is working with Duke to quickly resolve the issue but didn’t know details or the source of the problem,” Baker reports. “Greg James, associate director of data networking at nearby North Carolina State University, said Wednesday that the school hasn’t noticed any issues at its campus in Raleigh despite usual monitoring of all wireless access points.”

Full article here.
Obvious first question: is it one or a handful of (potentially faulty) iPhones causing the problem or are all iPhones capable of flooding Duke’s Wi-Fi network?


  1. “MacDailyNews Take: Obvious first question: is it one or a handful of (potentially faulty) iPhones causing the problem or are all iPhones capable of flooding Duke’s Wi-Fi network?”

    Uh … duh. It’s so obvious that there is NO doubt about 2 dozen people in Apple, and Cisco, and at Duke too, have already asked it/answered it/proceeding to the next question.

    If you guys can’t come up with better ‘takes’ than that, why not just keep quiet.

  2. If it were solely due to an Apple design flaw it would be happening all over. It isn’t. So we’re left with:

    a) There’s a faulty iPhone at Duke. (But wouldn’t it also cause chaos when the owner left the campus?)

    b) There’s a failure somewhere in the Duke network. (Misconfiguration or breakdown.)

    c) Something unique in the Duke network configuration wasn’t anticipated by Apple and it’s a design flaw specific to this combination.

    Since we’re not hearing about this happening on numerous networks, it’s probably an isolated problem with one phone or one network. We will hear about this instance over and over and over again.

  3. Seems to me, the access points are just having trouble keeping up with all handing over of ip address when a student enters an different part of the campus. as Ashok Agrawala had said. You get a laptop and try walking around and see if it doesnt have the same problem. I have done it with our wireless hand scanners I support where I work. If I go into another area if pretty much tries to reconnect to the network. I have only 4, but if you talking 150 phones trying to constantly keep a connection as people move all around campus I can see how this will bog down the system.

  4. It is quite odd that this issue is only occurring at Duke and not at any other university or corporation in the country. I’m sure the problem will come down to something configured incorrectly on Duke’s network.

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