AT&T has admitted that the rise of tablet and smartphones like the iPad and iPhone has taken a major toll on its network.

In its public filing to the Federal Communications Commission yesterday, the company admits that its network has been under increasing strain as more and more high-bandwidth devices have been connected. This not only includes smartphones like the iPhone, but tablets like the iPad as well. AT&T says that in many cases tablets put a greater stress on their network than smartphones do.

AT&T traces its network troubles back to around 2007, and though the filing does not mention the iPhone by name, the company's 8,000% increase in data consumption from 2007 to 2010 correspond s with the launch of the first iPhone in 2008. Smartphones, AT&T says, use 24 times more data for each user, and that doesn't even include tablet usage.

The company doesn't see the traffic troubles letting up. Over the next five years, data usage on AT&T's network is projected to skyrocket as customers 'mobilize' all of their communications activities, from streaming HD video and cloud computing to a range of M2M applications like energy management, fleet tracking, and remote health monitoring, AT&T writes in the filing.

AT&T says the overloading of its network justifies its acquisition of T-Mobile. Customers will benefit from faster data and a reduced frequency of dropped calls. The company also says that the acquisition would increase broadband penetration to rural areas of the United States, a significant goal of the Obama administration.