Apparently, I owe AT&T (NYSE:T) an apology. In independent tests conducted by the tech bloggers at Gizmodo and testing firm Global Wireless Solutions, AT&T beats its major peers in delivering service.

"AT&T's data throughput is 40 to 50% higher than the competition, including Verizon (NYSE:VZ)," Global Wireless president Paul Carter told The New York Times in an interview.

To say this is surprising is, well, an understatement. But should it be? Earlier this year, AT&T executives said their company was investing $17 billion to upgrade its network. Hearing this, I had assumed that the company was far behind the iPhone demand curve and was privately taking grief from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Now it turns out the opposite may be true. According to a source at Nielsen quoted by the Times, the iPhone's internal electronics for connecting to cell towers may be less than satisfactory.

The Times also quotes sources from Root Wireless, another tester that found AT&T to be superior. Combine these independent performance tests with reports of iPhone service troubles, such as dropped calls and disappearing voice mail, and we're left with good circumstantial evidence that reported issues are as much due to inadequacies with Apple's handsets as they are AT&T's network. Color me stunned.

Verizon, meanwhile, can't be happy about these reports or their conclusions. They cast doubt on the veracity of the company's hardball ads, which belittle AT&T's network performance and the iPhone's sometimes-troubling App Store approval process.

Among the winners are Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE:DT) T-Mobile, which performed admirably in Gizmodo's tests, and Palm (NASDAQ:PALM), whose youthful Pre isn't suffering outages and which appears happy with carrier partner Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) data coverage.

Yep, I owe Ma Bell an apology. Here it is: I'm sorry, AT&T. You're better than I thought you were.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy can't hear you. Hello? Hello? Are you there?