It appears that Apple’s newest high-end iPhone, the iPhone X, does not support T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum. Band 71, which is the 600 MHz spectrum T-Mobile is currently deploying in order to broaden and deepen its coverage, does not appear among the spectrum bands supported by the new iPhone X.
A T-Mobile representative said the carrier didn’t immediately have any details to share on the topic. However, in response to a question about whether the iPhone X supports T-Mobile's 600 MHz spectrum, T-Mobile's COO Mike Sievert tweeted: "Naw not yet. But we're offering new iPhones with a FREE upgrade (payoff of this phone, once 50% of it is paid off) to next year's model!"
The absence of 600 MHz in the new iPhone X is noteworthy, if not entirely surprising. T-Mobile spent roughly $8 billion earlier this year in the FCC’s incentive auction of TV broadcasters’ unwanted spectrum. Thus, the spectrum is relatively new to the global wireless industry; it typically takes handset makers some time to add new spectrum bands to their products.
Indeed, there’s only one phone—the newly released LG V30—that supports T-Mobile’s 600 MHz spectrum licenses.
But T-Mobile has also made no secret of its efforts to build out 600 MHz services, and the importance of those bands to the company's strategy. The company said that it is already building out commercial services on the spectrum, and that it owns an average of 31 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum licenses across the country. The operator added that the low-band spectrum reaches twice as far and is four times better in buildings than mid-band spectrum.
Of course, that doesn’t mean T-Mobile isn’t supporting the new iPhone. The operator said it will offer a $300 discount to customers who trade in an iPhone 6 (or any other iPhone after the 6) via 24 monthly bill credits. The carrier also said it is offering three months of free service to customers who purchase an Apple Watch Series 3, which features built-in cellular connectivity.
Interestingly, T-Mobile isn’t the only carrier that isn’t yet providing details on how Apple’s new gadgets might perform on its network. Representatives from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T also didn’t respond to questions about what spectrum bands and network technologies Apple’s new devices might support. That means it’s unclear whether Apple’s new iPhones will support Sprint’s new HPUE network technology, Verizon’s LTE Unlicensed technology, or the LAA technology that AT&T and others are deploying. Indeed, as BTIG analyst Walt Piecyk noted, Apple made no mention of “gigabit LTE speeds” in its iPhone X and iPhone 8 and 8 Plus presentation, so it’s reasonable to assume that such technologies were not included in the gadget. However, Piecyk did point out that the new iPhone X supports Dish Network’s Band 66, which combines the company’s AWS-4, AWS-1 and AWS-3 holdings.
"This is particularly good for Dish, which will see an ecosystem develop for a large block of its vacant spectrum," Piecyk wrote.
Indeed, Piecyk said it's unlikely that Sprint's HPUE or LTE-U/LAA would be included in the iPhone X. He also wrote that Band 14, which includes FirstNet's spectrum, is also not included in the phone.
But perhaps most interestingly, Piecyk noted that the new iPhone appears to support the 3.5 GHz band that the U.S. wireless industry is hoping to use for CBRS services. "Apple did not include support for Band 48, the US CBRS Band, in the latest iPhones, but it did include Band 42, which operates on the 3.5 GHz Band (3,400-3,600). This band is currently being put to use in Japan where the government licensed it to the three major operators. Apple produced separate SKUs for the Japanese models. We view Apple’s decision to include at least a subset of the CBRS band in an iPhone as a nice milestone for development of the CBRS ecosystem," Piecyk wrote.
It’s worth noting that Apple is notoriously secretive about its products, which means that operators typically aren’t given details about forthcoming iPhones until they are officially announced by the company.
Article updated Sept. 13 with additional information from Piecyk. Article also updated Sept. 14 with updated information from T-Mobile.