Carriers demand LTE from Apple, MS

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
13 Dec 2011

This means that, despite obstacles like fragmented spectrum bands and bulky first generation chips, LTE smartphones will be close to mainstream in 2012, and that puts pressure on the laggard OEMs to catch up. The US operators are piling on this pressure, with Verizon Wireless downgrading Windows Phone's chances until it supports 4G, and US Cellular saying it's not interested in an iPhone until there is an LTE model.

One of the big disappointments of the iPhone 4S launch was the lack of LTE, and a 4G “iPhone 5” is not now expected until late spring, if then. There have been some good reasons, notably that first wave chipsets would not easily fit into the iPhone's iconic shape, but the decision certainly made Apple look like a follower beside the 4G superphones of Samsung and HTC, and limited its profile at Verizon.

Now, as Apple seeks to boost market share through distribution via tier two cellcos, one at least is refusing to fall at the giant's feet. US Cellular has already hinted that the iPhone did not make economic sense under Apple's famous terms and conditions, and now Ted Carlson, CEO of its parent firm TDS, has told a conference that the company would wait for a “more cutting edge” iPhone – one with LTE.

In November, US Cellular revealed that Apple had offered it a CDMA iPhone 4S, but the carrier could not make the economics work because of the huge subsidies, which drain profits – there might also have been the need to upgrade capacity in some areas to accommodate data-hungry iPhone users, especially in US Cellular's premier market, Chicago, where it has only 20MHz of PCS spectrum to serve a densely populated metro area of 13 million POPs. While the stress on that network from the iPhone would be difficult, the cellco plans to launch its LTE network by year end, initially in smaller markets.

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