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) -- Acknowledging the public outcry of so many angry


(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report

iPhone users,


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again says that it is

continuing its 3G network upgrades


The announcement Wednesday essentially repeats a

declaration AT&T made in May

outlining its wireless expansion plans. One new element in the press release was the naming of six cities -- Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami -- where the company is making software upgrades for a faster HSPA 7.2 wireless technology.

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Ma Bell helped shed some light on just how heavy its network burden has become with the rise of smartphones like Apple's iPhone.

Apple's Next Big Thing: Still the iPhone

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The popularity of smartphones has resulted in "wireless traffic on the AT&T network that has quadrupled over the past year. This growth includes a volume of smartphone data traffic over the AT&T network that is unmatched in the wireless industry," the company said in a press release Wednesday.

The four-fold increase in traffic comes at the same time that AT&T is cutting its network spending by $2.5 billion or 15% from last year's outlay.

With the popularity of the iPhone, AT&T has landed in a

bit of a bind


complaints mount

about poor network quality. AT&T is in the last year of its exclusive iPhone sales agreement with Apple. This becomes particularly important since AT&T needs to keep Apple on board and retain customers to cover the heavy subsidies it has spent to lure customers with cheaper iPhones.

AT&T's upgrade update comes on the same day as Apple's iTunes conference in San Francisco. It was at the last Apple conference where every mention of AT&T was greeted with jeers from the audience.

AT&T would like to avoid that sort of reception.


written by Scott Moritz in New York