In our view, this data is a strong indicator that performance of the mobile carrier's network is affecting the iPhone 3G more than the handset itself.
Wired further cites the recent Swedish engineering tests, run by Bluetest, which showed that the iPhone 3G's eponymous radio and antenna performed roughly the same as those of the other handsets they tested.
So where does this leave the last, 2.0.2 firmware tweaks from Apple, and hopes that 2.1 would further fix 3G connection problems? Chipset and firmware finger-pointing may have been misplaced, or at least been only part of a larger overall 3G connectivity knot. Either way, it looks like the tennis ball has just been rocketed back into AT&T (and the other carriers') court for now.
From an end-user's perspective, however, especially if you're one of the unfortunate 2%, other than providing some entertaining distraction, does the blame game really help us? Or do we just want it fixed, like, yesterday?
(Thanks Bad Ash and yc for the tips! Thanks to the TiPb faithful who went over there to help out with the study, and thanks to Wired for recognizing them!)