Bull Durham: Duke WiFi Outage Leads to iPhone Outrage

[Editor's note: This article is being maintained for archival purposes. Since this article was written, Duke has released a statement saying that the iPhone was not to blame for the reported outages of the university's wireless network. Please see the updated article by clicking here. --Dave Nagel]

The media's search for iPhone flaws maintained its pace last week when Duke University's wireless local area network (WLAN) jammed for 10 to 15 minutes, apparently the result of newly commissioned iPhones inundating the university's Cisco wireless network servers.

But while the reports were full of opinion, facts were not abundantly  available.

The Raleigh, NC, News & Observer newspaper reported that the iPhone is programmed to repeatedly attempt to connect to WiFi access points, which caused the network to jam. There are 100 to 150 iPhones registered on Duke's network, the newspaper reported.

Network World reported that two iPhones at a time were able to flood up to 30 of Duke's wireless routers with IP address requests. Other reports said that the iPhone was capable of making 18,000 address requests to the network every second. But while that might be possible for some devices, it would require iPhone to have the chipset of a small supercomputer.

"The scale of the problem is very small right now," Bill Cannon, a technology spokesman for Duke, told The Washington Post. "But the more iPhones that are around, the more they could be knocking on the door for access."

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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