Apple to sell 3 variants of iPhone 5 for international LTE coverage

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The hodgepodge of different LTE frequency bands used by various carriers globally has necessitated three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers.

Apple built a single, global model of the iPhone up until the beginning of 2011, when it introduced a CDMA-only iPhone 4 version compatible with Verizon. When it introduced iPhone 4S a year ago, Apple incorporated support for both GSM and CDMA networks, resulting in a "world phone," albeit still locked by specific carriers.

The new iPhone 5 now comes in three LTE versions, all of which continue to support the global GSM/UMTS services of iPhone 4S (Quad Band 2G GSM/EDGE on 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, and Quad Band 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA on 850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz) with new support for "4G" DC-HSDPA (which at up to 42Mbps is as fast as most carriers' 4G LTE service). Only one of the three versions continues to support CDMA.

The three models most significantly differ in their support for LTE frequency bands, which are so fragmented by carriers globally that no single phone could possibly bridge every LTE carrier on the globe. To cover its launch carriers' LTE services, Apple has announced these three different models:

AT&T and Canada

A North American GSM A1428 model for use on AT&T and Apple's Canadian partners Bell/Virgin, Rogers/Fido and Telus/Koodo provides LTE support for bands 4 (AWS) and 17 (700b MHz) but not CDMA.

AWS-flavored LTE is exclusive to North America, where it was originally assigned for use as wireless cable. In both the US and Canada, it has been reassigned for mobile voice and data networks. While Canadian carriers used it for LTE deployments, T-Mobile acquired large portions of the U.S. rights to AWS and used it to build out its non-standard 3G UMTS service.

This is one significantly reason why AT&T wanted to acquire T-Mobile two years ago. After the U.S. government intervened, T-Mobile was left with its AWS 3G service incompatible with previous iPhones. It now plans to build out LTE service, although that won't happen until next year, leaving it with the interim option of shifting its 2G GSM service to 3G/4G HSDPA in order to woo unlocked iPhone 4/4S/5 users (which it currently has in place in only a few markets).

Verizon, Sprint and KDDI Japan

A second, CDMA model A1429 will support Sprint and Verizon's CDMA network in the U.S. and KDDI in Japan. In addition to the standard "EVDO rev A" 800 and 1900MHz support on previous CDMA iPhones, iPhone 5 now also supports the slightly faster and more efficient rev B on 2100MHz. Sprint and Verizon once considered upgrading to EVDO rev B before throwing their support behind 4G networks, but Japan's KDDI does use rev B networks. CDMA carriers in India and Russia also support rev B.

More importantly, the CDMA iPhone 5 supports LTE Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz), 13 (700cMHz, used by Verizon) and 25 (1900MHz, used by Sprint). The first three bands overlap those used by Apple's other carrier partners in Europe and Asia (but not AT&T/Canada), although the company also notes that "band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands."

GSM/LTE in Europe, Asia and Softbank Japan

A third model for the rest of the world supports GSM carriers that have added support for LTE on Bands 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 5 (850MHz).

This includes Deutsche Telekom in Germany, Everything Everywhere in the UK, Optus/Virgin and Telstra in Australia, Softbank in Japan, SK Telecom and KT in Korea, SmarTone in Hong Kong, and M1 and SingTel in Singapore.

Other LTE carriers

There are several other global LTE carriers Apple could support, either with its existing models or new models, that the company hasn't announced any deals with yet.

In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple's existing models, given a carrier agreement.

Other carriers have deployed LTE Bands that none of Apple's existing iPhone 5 versions support. A variety of carriers in Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are all deploying Band 7 (2600 MHz), while others in Germany and Sweden are using Band 20 (800MHz), and a variety of Middle Eastern carriers have started building out Band 38 (2600MHz).

FDD vs TDD-LTE support

iPhone 5 is believed to use Qualcomm's fifth generation MDM9615 baseband chip, which supports both FDD and TDD signaling technologies for LTE.

FDD or Frequency-Division Duplex signaling technology is used by CDMA and WCDMA/UMTS for most modern cellular systems, and is the technology most LTE providers will use, including the networks being built out by AT&T and Verizon in the U.S. Qualcomm owns most of the patents supporting CDMA and WCDMA technologies.

TDD or Time-Division Duplex is an alternative flavor of the LTE standard developed by China, and is being deployed in that country under the name TD-LTE. China developed its own TD-SCDMA and now TD-LTE to avoid paying Qualcomm's patent royalties. By supporting both FDD and TDD technologies, Qualcomm's chipset can enable a single device to work on a wide variety of 3G or 4G networks.

It's not clear if Apple is supporting TDD-LTE (or China's 3G TD-SCDMA) in its existing iPhone 5 versions. This would dictate whether a separate model would be needed to support LTE service in China and India. Apple's partner Softbank initially built out TDD-LTE in Japan, but has since augmented its coverage with standard FDD-LTE.

However the MDM9615 does appear to be giving Apple support for new DC-HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev-B, making it likely that Apple's existing iPhone 5 models will eventually make it to a wider selection of carriers. And even in areas with incompatible LTE networks, iPhone 5 will support very fast HSPA+ networks at similar speeds to today's LTE deployments.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    holy cow, this is confusing!
  • Reply 2 of 39
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,614member
    Why would Apple give the same model number to the Verizon U.S. phone and the European GSM phone? This makes absolutely no sense to me.
  • Reply 3 of 39
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member


    And for 3rd world countries there is an optional hand crank to recharge the device.

  • Reply 4 of 39
    "In Japan NTT DOCOMO uses Band 1, and a long list of other European carriers are deploying Band 3 LTE. T-Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS use Band 4 (AWS) in the U.S., so these carriers could all apparently be supported by Apple's existing models, given a carrier agreement."

    Cricket and MetroPCS use CDMA, and since the US CDMA mdoel doesn't have the AWS band, they're left out of the game. Also this means Verizon's recent AWS purchases wont be of use to the iPhone 5.

    Likewise are many small regional carriers including US Cellular, who have deployed LTE on the A B blocks of the 700MHz spectrum (band 12). Again, not supported.
  • Reply 5 of 39


    "three versions of iPhone 5, with the potential for additional new models as Apple signs on other carriers."


     


    Just not T-Mobile, USA.


    /


    /

  • Reply 6 of 39


    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

    Just not T-Mobile, USA.


     


    Sure, just not via an overpriced, underspecced plan colluded with the other carriers and forced on all users. You actually get to CHOOSE your plan.

  • Reply 7 of 39
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    tylerk36 wrote: »
    And for 3rd world countries there is an optional hand crank to recharge the device.

    perhaps we should all be required to generate some amount of our own power ... doing so might alter our perspective just a tad.
  • Reply 8 of 39

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    Why would Apple give the same model number to the Verizon U.S. phone and the European GSM phone? This makes absolutely no sense to me.


    This confuses me as well. Especially since the CDMA A1429 seems to be a complete superset of the GSM version. It looks like the CDMA version should be able to roam on all of the non-US/Canada LTE networks even though only KDDI is listed on the Apple page.


     


    I'm wondering if Apple is making the Verizon version look less global than it really is to make AT&T happy. In the past, the AT&T phone was the one to get for globe-trotters, but now the opposite seems to be true.

  • Reply 9 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,236member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


     


    Sure, just not via an overpriced, underspecced plan colluded with the other carriers and forced on all users. You actually get to CHOOSE your plan.



    Well, you would have to prove collusion. Its easy to say. But T-Mobile has the smallest coverage area in the US for every service they offer.


     


    And, they lie about having real 4G coverage. They have no LTE yet. I remember the arguments over AT&T calling their HSPA+ service 4G, and people howled! But this never seems to happen with crappy T-Mobile.


     


    So, sure they're cheaper, while they're fine where they do have coverage, they don't have much of it, and no LTE at all.

  • Reply 10 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,236member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ronm88 View Post


    This confuses me as well. Especially since the CDMA A1429 seems to be a complete superset of the GSM version. It looks like the CDMA version should be able to roam on all of the non-US/Canada LTE networks even though only KDDI is listed on the Apple page.


     


    I'm wondering if Apple is making the Verizon version look less global than it really is to make AT&T happy. In the past, the AT&T phone was the one to get for globe-trotters, but now the opposite seems to be true.



    It's a matter of the tranceivers. There are only so many bands, and encoding technologies they can encompass. This gets better as time goes on, but we're not there yet.


     


    Besides, there are just too many different standards for this. It seems that almost every country has used up most of its spectrum, and fits this in wherever it can. There should be worldwide standards bodies for spectrum - all spectrum. But I suppose it won't happen while we're alive. And then you get those who are terrified of any international agreements, no matter how useful they are.

  • Reply 11 of 39
    cameronjcameronj Posts: 2,357member


    What a debacle.  Thankfully it's just 4G, and I intend to disable it on my new iPhone when I get it, if possible.  Save battery life and don't lose anything I care about.  

  • Reply 12 of 39
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    It's a matter of the tranceivers. There are only so many bands, and encoding technologies they can encompass. This gets better as time goes on, but we're not there yet.


     


    Besides, there are just too many different standards for this. It seems that almost every country has used up most of its spectrum, and fits this in wherever it can. There should be worldwide standards bodies for spectrum - all spectrum. But I suppose it won't happen while we're alive. And then you get those who are terrified of any international agreements, no matter how useful they are.



     


















































































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    LTE BAND

    NUMBER

    UPLINK

    (MHZ)

    DOWNLINK

    (MHZ)

    WIDTH OF BAND (MHZ)

    DUPLEX SPACING (MHZ)

    BAND GAP (MHZ)

    1

    1920 - 1980

    2110 - 2170

    60

    190

    130

    2

    1850 - 1910

    1930 - 1990

    60

    80

    20

    3

    1710 - 1785

    1805 -1880

    75

    95

    20

    4

    1710 - 1755

    2110 - 2155

    45

    400

    355

    5

    824 - 849

    869 - 894

    25

    45

    20

    6

    830 - 840

    875 - 885

    10

    35

    25

    7

    2500 - 2570

    2620 - 2690

    70

    120

    50

    8

    880 - 915

    925 - 960

    35

    45

    10

    9

    1749.9 - 1784.9
  • Reply 13 of 39
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    Why would Apple give the same model number to the Verizon U.S. phone and the European GSM phone? This makes absolutely no sense to me.


     


    I think they're the same phone, only split out on the chart to show different global functionality. I think there are only two models, but the US-centric nature of that page makes it appear like there are three.


     


    Here's the page in one piece:


     


    http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/


     


    Note that the A1429 listed as 'CDMA' includes all the bands listed just underneath as the A1428 'GSM' . It's a marketing distinction, not a technical one.

  • Reply 14 of 39

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    Well, you would have to prove collusion. Its easy to say. But T-Mobile has the smallest coverage area in the US for every service they offer.


     


    And, they lie about having real 4G coverage. They have no LTE yet. I remember the arguments over AT&T calling their HSPA+ service 4G, and people howled! But this never seems to happen with crappy T-Mobile.


     


    So, sure they're cheaper, while they're fine where they do have coverage, they don't have much of it, and no LTE at all.



     


    My iPhone 3GS is getting 3G from T-Mobile in Santa Clara, CA. The Speed Test app reports 5MBs downlink. :-)

  • Reply 15 of 39

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dlux View Post


     


    I think they're the same phone, only split out on the chart to show different global functionality. I think there are only two models, the US-centric nature of that page make it appear like there are three.



    I was suspecting the same as well (I'm hoping its the case). That will make the Verizon phone the one to have for US globetrotters.

  • Reply 16 of 39

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    It's a matter of the tranceivers. There are only so many bands, and encoding technologies they can encompass. This gets better as time goes on, but we're not there yet.


     


    Besides, there are just too many different standards for this. It seems that almost every country has used up most of its spectrum, and fits this in wherever it can. There should be worldwide standards bodies for spectrum - all spectrum. But I suppose it won't happen while we're alive. And then you get those who are terrified of any international agreements, no matter how useful they are.



     


    Can you explain a bit more? How do you think the tranceivers differ between the versions?


     


    If Apple lists the CDMA version as supporting LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5, 13, 25) while the GSM A1429 supports only LTE (Bands 1, 3, 5), shouldn't the CDMA version be able to use LTE anywhere the GSM version can?

  • Reply 17 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,236member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cameronj View Post


    What a debacle.  Thankfully it's just 4G, and I intend to disable it on my new iPhone when I get it, if possible.  Save battery life and don't lose anything I care about.  



    From my use of LTE on my iPad, I can tell you that it does make a big difference. It's not a minor upgrade. As long as battery life is good, there's no reason to turn it off. And according to Apple's numbers, battery life with LTE is the same as with 3G. That's a major accomplishment!

  • Reply 18 of 39
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,236member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by OriginalMacRat View Post


     


    My iPhone 3GS is getting 3G from T-Mobile in Santa Clara, CA. The Speed Test app reports 5MBs downlink. :-)



    My iPad using AT&T's LTE here in NYC gets me 12Mbs downlink, and 5Mbs uplink.

  • Reply 19 of 39

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cameronj View Post


    What a debacle.  Thankfully it's just 4G, and I intend to disable it on my new iPhone when I get it, if possible.  Save battery life and don't lose anything I care about.  



    Apple spec sheet implies that there is no battery penalty to using LTE.


     


    Browsing time:

    Up to 8 hours on LTE

    Up to 8 hours on 3G

  • Reply 20 of 39
    dluxdlux Posts: 666member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ronm88 View Post


    I was suspecting the same as well (I'm hoping its the case). That will make the Verizon phone the one to have for US globetrotters.



     


    That's what this article says as well:


     


    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/09/12/if-you-want-global-lte-roaming-choose-verizon-sprint-iphone-5-models/


     


    Note the echo-chamber effect, though. This guy also thinks there are three separate models, based on his reading of The Verge's article stating the same thing. Understandably this is confusing, but I think all the writers should look a little deeper to get to the bottom of this.

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