Updated since 4:06 pm EST Wednesday

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone is a signaling pig.

As the great iPhone/ AT&T ( T) debate goes round and round, an equipment supplier has pointed the finger at Apple -- not AT&T -- for causing the problems with the iPhone's wireless connections.

Hoping to clear the air -- or perhaps sell more gear -- Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint networking gear venture of Nokia ( NOK) and Siemens ( SI), says mobile signaling traffic exploded when Apple released the iPhone OS 3.0 on June 18, 2009, according to a note from JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall Wednesday.
iPhone 3GS

Apparently, in an effort to lower power consumption, Apple designed the iPhone to stay in touch with the network through heavy bursts of signaling traffic rather than keep a radio channel open constantly (keeping the channel open drains the battery). The iPhone effectively caused signaling congestion problems like dropped calls and poor connection quality.

Think of it like a railway system and the arrival of fancy new trains. A troubling feature of the new trains is that their radios jam the railroad's signaling system. The tracks aren't congested, but the lights are all glowing red.

If true, the assumption would make Apple's iPhone the culprit in what has been a vexing issue for AT&T, Apple and millions of cranky customers.

This could be a big vindication for AT&T, which has been widely criticized for its network's quality issues. If Nokia Siemens' diagnosis is accurate, it would mean that AT&T's data network isn't in need of great repair and that only a modest signaling upgrade would be needed if Apple decides to stick with its signaling preference.

AT&T declined to comment. Apple wasn't immediately available for comment.

The picture started to come into focus last week. Nokia Siemens CEO Rajeev Suri hinted during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that an unspecified smartphone had a particularly troubling network profile.

Suri told attendees that a certain idle smartphone created as much signaling traffic as 1,000 phone calls a day, according to a story reported by Mobile Europe.

Until now, few industry players had been willing to blame Apple for the problem. And Apple has never explained its role in the signaling flap. In fact, last month, Apple told analysts on its earnings call that AT&T would take the fall and make the fixes.

"AT&T has acknowledged that they are having some issues in a few cities and they have very detailed plans to address these," Apple COO Tim Cook said, according to a transcript on SeekingAlpha. "We have personally reviewed these plans and we have very high confidence that they will make significant progress towards fixing them."

Stepping up so Apple could save face and keep its reputation unblemished may have paid off for AT&T. Ma Bell won an exclusive deal to sell the iPad next month and its exclusive pact with the iPhone may have been extended for its loyalty.

-- Written by Scott Moritz in New York


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