The results from Wired's worldwide-and yes, unscientific-survey of iPhone 3G download speeds are in (though the map seems to be down): It's the network. Well, at least, the iPhone's 3G issues aren't simply a hardware problem, as a bunch of mad scientist Swedes vetted this morning. Germany and the Netherlands, which have a solid, mature 3G infrastructure, report the fastest 3G speeds-2Mbps on average. In the US the picture is not so peachy, confirming the steady flood of irate yupsters yapping over the last few weeks.
In major metro areas in the US, 3G performance is slow as balls-10 out of 30 in San Francisco reported speeds as slow as EDGE, pointing to overloaded towers in heavy usage areas. (And because AT&T's 3G equipment is mostly deployed on existing 2G towers which are spaced farther apart than 3G's range, when you get the to edge of a tower's coverage, you're going to get crappy performance.)
Another thing pointing to tower overload, anecdotally, is that the noise level of complaints has been blowing up since launch (re: 3G speeds, it was relatively quiet in complaint city), indicating that the rising tidal wave of 3G users hitting AT&T's network is outpacing their capacity. With Wired's data, there's a decent case that if your 3G is sucking, it's not entirely your phone's fault after all.
Still, the average speed US speed of 990Kbps isn't bad, actually, considering that 1.4Mbps is the rated max download speed. It's better than EDGE. You know, when it works. [Gadget Lab]