Can AT&T's datacenter plans save the iPhone?

AT&T takes concrete steps to improve its network. So what does this mean to the iPhone?

On Wednesday AT&T announced the building of a new "mobility center", a datacenter focused on offering 3G and next generation 4G/LTE services, in Akron, OH where it will pick up the slack on wireless  data and text services provided to consumers on the east coast. These services are currently provided through an older facility in Schaumburg, IL.

AT&T is spending $120,000,000 to retrofit an existing 25-year old building that was formerly the Ohio Bell Datacenter; $20 million to refurbish the building and $100 million in equipment to support current 3G customers and the rollout of 4G services. The datacenter is expected to go online in September (which also matches some reports of the availability timeline of 4G for AT&T) .

The motivation for the datacenter has been the growth in demand for wireless data services and one can only think that this is also an aspect of the lumbering giant finally coming to terms with the fact that the technology and appeal of the iPhone is no longer enough to outweigh the perceived anchor that AT&T telephony has hung on the device, despite the huge initial sales of the iPhone 4.

AT&T has a window now to improve their services while the media is focused on the problems that the iPhone 4 has that are Apple's doing, and not directly related to the service problems that AT&T has been addressing. They've added cell sites in high-volume (and high profile) locations such as NYC and San Francisco, and are now taking steps to quickly add capacity and performance to their wireless service that will be of direct benefit to iPhone users.

So it looks like Steve Jobs is getting what he wanted; a better AT&T to support his phone technology. But when he made that request I doubt he thought he would need a convenient scapegoat to obfuscate software and design issues that would plague his flagship iPhone.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I'm an iPhone 4 user who has had none of the reported problems, other than my own negative experience with FaceTime performance (which has nothing to do with wireless service issues).