Rumor Mill: iPhone 5 will support global LTE bands, China's TD-SCDMA

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) next iPhone, expected to be announced on Wednesday, will support multiple LTE bands for worldwide service and possibly China's TD-SCDMA 3G standard, according to various reports.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Anandtech have said the new iPhone will support unspecified LTE bands being used worldwide, while the latter predicted the handset will also support TD-SCDMA. 

"Support for LTE is simply requisite for a high end smartphone at this point, and inclusion of TD-SCDMA is likewise requisite for any further growth in China," said Anandtech.

The reports, if true, indicate Apple learned a tough lesson with the latest iPad--introduced in March--which only supported certain North American LTE frequencies in the 700 MHz and AWS 1.7/2.1 GHz bands.That led to disputes in several nations--most notably Australia--where Apple had marketed the new iPad as having 4G capability even though it did not support local LTE spectrum bands.

It is highly unlikely that all currently operating LTE networks will be supported in the new iPhone, commonly called the iPhone 5 though Apple has not confirmed that name, and it is unclear exactly which bands will and will not be supported in the device, said the Wall Street Journal.

The GSMA's Wireless Intelligence service has predicted there will be 38 frequency combinations for LTE by 2015. But chip technology limits the number of bands that can be supported in a single device. "It's like patchwork quilt in terms of spectrum," Bill Davidson, senior vice president of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), told the Wall Street Journal. "It will be impractical to have all of the bands."

Therefore, manufacturers must be selective regarding the LTE bands to support. The 700/800MHz band was expected to be used in around a quarter of LTE network deployments, Wireless Intelligence said in December 2011.

Since then, the U.S. government's August approval of Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) purchase of AWS spectrum from four cable TV operators elevated the 1700/2100 MHz AWS spectrum to higher status as a co-essential LTE band, along with the 700 MHz band, in the United States, said Ron Westfall, research director of service provider infrastructure at Current Analysis. AWS is now a solid candidate for one of the essential seven or eight LTE bands deemed critical for global roaming LTE devices and services, he said.

Anandtech is predicting the iPhone 5 will use Qualcomm's second-generation Gobi modems and transceivers with baseband being delivered by Qualcomm's MDM9x15 platform, which is natively voice enabled and supports TDD and FDD versions of LTE as well as multiple advanced 3G standards. "This new transceiver also includes even more ports (7 instead of 5 on RTR8600) which means we will see likely more 3G or 4G LTE bands supported in this upcoming device," said Anandtech.

It is unlikely that the iPhone 5 will include near-field communications (NFC) capability, said Anandtech, which based its conclusion in part on rumors that the device will have a metal body, making it less than conducive to a radiating NFC antenna. In addition, the new iPhone will probably not come with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is awaiting certification in early 2013. The handset might support Wi-Fi on the 5 GHz band in addition to the 2.4 GHz band, which is supported in earlier models, said Anandtech.

For more:
- see this Anandtech article
- see this Wall Street Journal article (sub. req.)
- see this PCWorld article

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