iPhone 5: will it do LTE?

12 Sep 2012

As you’ve no doubt heard, Apple may or may not launch the iPhone 5 this week.

Possibly today (Wednesday).

Possibly with 4G.

And an NFC chip.

Or not.

And it might not even be called the iPhone 5.

CNET has a nice collection of all the rumors here.

Obviously I don’t have any particular insight into what the iPhone 5 will include. But at this stage, the most likely true rumor is that it will be an LTE phone, if only because Apple has little choice.

Everyone expected the 4S to be LTE, and were rather disappointed that it wasn’t. That didn’t stop it from being a major hit, of course.

But Apple is running out of excuses – it’s latest iPad supports 4G, and patent issues aside, Samsung already sells LTE devices, and LTE services are up and running in the US. Verizon had 11 million LTE subscribers in June, and AT&T Mobility had almost 3 million, according to Value Partners. A 4G-capable iPhone is just what they need right now.

That said, it’s worth mentioning that an LTE iPhone will be aimed at the US market first, which means the big question is this: will anyone outside of North America be able to use it?

It’s all about the frequency bands, you see.

Many LTE networks currently run on the 2.6 GHz band, and a growing number are also refarming 1800 MHz frequencies for LTE. But not in North America. In the US, Verizon and AT&T use the 700MHz band for LTE. AT&T also uses 1700 MHz and 2.1 GHz, as does Metro PCS and Rogers Wireless in Canada.

If that’s the market Apple is going to target first with a 4G iPhone, those are the bands it’s likely to support (as it did with the iPad 3, which is why Apple ended up in trouble in Australia for promoting it as a 4G tablet).

That said, it might also support at least one other harmonized band (and the smart money would be on 1800 MHz, if only because that would make it usable in Korea, Australia and parts of Europe). But it’s going to have to jam that in with the other LTE frequency bands and still support HSPA on 2.1 GHz as a fallback option

We’ll find out soon enough. Possibly.

Oh, and here’s one more rumor for you: if the iPhone 5 does come with 4G, Samsung intends to sue Apple for patent infringement over it. But of course.

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