Apple’s iPhone 7 ignores Band 66 for AWS-3 spectrum, which may slow carrier network buildouts

Apple's iPhone 7. Source: Apple

The new Apple iPhone 7 does not include support for the AWS-3 spectrum that wireless carriers and others spent a combined total of roughly $44 billion in bids to acquire during the FCC’s spectrum auction last year.

AWS-3 spectrum is included in the 3GPP’s Band 66.

“It is disappointing that Band 66 isn't included in the iPhone 7 specification,” Brian Goemmer, president of Allnet Insights & Analytics, a spectrum research firm, told FierceWireless. “It's not surprising because of the fairly recent 3GPP announcement of Band 66 but it means that any 2016 and 2017 AWS-3 network deployments will be waiting for the September 2017 release of the next iPhone before carriers have a device that would enable … their customers to reach their newly deployed capacity.”

Sponsored by ZTE

Interview with Chen Zhiwei

Gain insight from Chen Zhiwei, the Deputy General Manager of ZTE Transport Network Product Line, on 5G telecom cloud networks and the ZTE NFVI solution.

Goemmer noted that the only AWS spectrum bands supported by Apple’s new iPhone 7 are in Band 4 (AWS-1 channels A, B, C, D, E, and F). The FCC’s AWS-1 spectrum auction concluded in 2006 and raised a total of $13.7 billion in winning bids; Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and other carriers currently operate networks on AWS-1 spectrum.

Prior to Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement, T-Mobile US said it expects to begin rolling out wireless services using its AWS-3 spectrum licenses as early as the end of this year, according to comments by company management to financial analysts at Jefferies.

T-Mobile was one of the main participants in the FCC’s hugely successful auction of AWS-3 spectrum last year; T-Mobile walked away with roughly $1.774 billion in winning bids in that auction, and the FCC issued those spectrum licenses to T-Mobile in April 2015.

AT&T, the big spender during the AWS-3 auction with more than $18 billion in winning bids, said last year it expects to begin deploying the spectrum “beginning in the 2017-2018 period.”

Dish Network, which spent billions of dollars on AWS-3 spectrum, is also a keen supporter of Band 66. The company announced last year that Band 66 also supports Dish’s AWS-4 downlink spectrum, as well as AWS-1 and paired AWS-3.

Of course, the lack of AWS-3 support in the new iPhone 7 likely won’t stop carriers from promoting the new gadget. For example, AT&T confirmed that new or existing DirecTV or U-verse customers who switch from another wireless carrier to AT&T can get a free iPhone 7, after up to $695 in monthly bill credits. (The carrier added that the deal is for one phone per account, meaning if a customer were to port four lines of service to AT&T, they still would only get on free device.)

Further, Apple is no laggard in supporting various spectrum bands. Although Band 66 is absent in the iPhone 7, the device supports a wide range of other bands.

For more:
- see the iPhone 7’s tech specs

Related articles:
The iPhone 7 offers some unexpected new features
Cowen: T-Mobile, Sprint positioned to benefit from launch of new iPhone
Samsung issues worldwide recall of Galaxy Note 7 over battery problems

Read more on

Suggested Articles

Ericsson now has commercial 5G RAN contracts with South Korea’s three major mobile operators.

The Wall Street Journal reports that AT&T has hired bankers at Centerview Partners and Goldman Sachs Group in the talks with Elliott.

MWC Los Angeles 2019 kicks off in just a few days, with vertical industries being drawn into the mobile conversation.