* Fix will be gradual in next two to three weeks
* Affects customers in markets using Alcatel Lucent gear
* AT&T shares up 2 pct, Apple shares down 0.45 pct (Adds background, share price update)
NEW YORK, July 26 (Reuters) - AT&T Inc (T.N) plans in the next two to three weeks to gradually fix a software defect that cut speeds for customers sending data from the Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhone 4 and from laptop modems.
AT&T had said on July 7 it was working with network equipment maker Alcatel Lucent SA ALUA.PA to fix the glitch, which it said affected less than 2 percent of its mobile user base. [ID:nN07158101]
AT&T, the exclusive U.S. provider for iPhone, said the iPhone 4, the latest Apple device, was the only smartphone that runs on its network that uses a technology known as HSUPA.
The No. 2 U.S. mobile operator said on Monday it has begun rolling out an Alcatel-Lucent software patch that would restore uplink speeds for its high-speed data services that depend on HSUPA.
“This patch will be deployed on a phased basis over the next two to three weeks,” AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said.
The glitch is one of several recent iPhone 4-related technical embarrassments for AT&T and Apple. Initially, the websites of both companies were overwhelmed by orders for the iPhone 4. Apple has also admitted to a technical problem with its signal strength display on the iPhone 4.
Apple has had to provide free cases with iPhone 4 to help mitigate problems with the phone’s antenna, a saga that was nicknamed “antennagate.” [ID:nN16240091]
AT&T said it is still supporting data services in markets with the defective Alcatel Lucent software. Before the fix is deployed, consumers will be able to send emails and other data at speeds no greater than 384 kilobits per second. That compares with a potential maximum of 5.67 gigabits per second.
Data download capacity, the speed at which data such as Web pages are sent to a phone, was not affected in the markets in question, according to AT&T.
AT&T shares were up 2 percent, or 51 cents, at $26.05 in early afternoon trading on New York Stock Exchange. U.S. shares of France’s Alcatel Lucent ALU.N were up 5 cents, or 1.8 percent, at $2.77 also on the NYSE.
Apple shares were down $1.16 cents, or 0.45 percent, at $258.78 on the Nasdaq. (Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Andre Grenon and Steve Orlofsky)