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AT&T Has AT&T gained a reputation in the past few years for having a network buckling under the load of their smartphone userbase? Probably. But the question of how to handle that load is a quandary that has divided customers and executives. Customers simply want an upgrade of the network’s capacity and reliability, while the suits want to institute a tiered/metered pricing structure for data access (a concept that while perfectly logical is repulsive to customers used to an unlimited data buffet).

It sounds like AT&T may have actually listened to the customers and is not only working to buttress their network to handle the pounding that millions of iPhone owners have inflicted, but also the prepare for the release of new, and as-of-yet unannounced, smartphones. Or at least so says Boy Genius Report. What do we expect in that mix? Well, webOS for one, as AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega has indeed that two webOS devices will come to his network in the first half of this year. Also, that Android thing too.

So how much is AT&T going to have to spend in order to come close to Verizon's coverage and reliability? If you ask Gerard Hallaren, director of research at TownHall Investment Research, they're looking at a $5 billion investment. That's a big chunk of change, though not out of AT&T's price range - the carrier is expected to report a profit of close to $4 billion for the last quarter of 2009.

[via: PreCentral sister site The iPhone Blog]

Thanks to Lee for the heads up!