If you ignore the tiny regional players, it’s pretty much accepted that America has four wireless operators: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Three of them now sell Apple’s iPhone, yet T-Mobile doesn’t, why is that? It all comes down to which frequencies T-Mobile decided to use for 3G, namely the “AWS” spectrum. AWS stands for Advanced Wireless Services and it uses the 1700 MHz band for uploading data and the 2100 MHz band for downloading data. Right now there are only a handful of operators using AWS, the largest being T-Mobile in America and Wind Mobile in Canada. Most handset makers don’t bother creating devices that support the AWS band because the more bands a device can handle, the more expensive it’ll be. Now Nokia was one of the first players on the market to introduce devices that support all five 3G bands currently in use, and we’re pretty happy to see the Samsung Galaxy Nexus als0 supporting so called pentaband 3G, but what about the iPhone?
While we can’t say for certain whether the next iPhone will support every known 3G band on the planet, we do have a quote from T-Mobile’s Chief Technology Officer, Neville Ray, that makes us believe that T-Mobile will finally get the iPhone at some point this year. He simply states:
“The next chipset will support AWS. The challenge that existed in the past will go away.”
That’s a breath of fresh air, especially considering that T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network covers a heck of a lot of people and can deliver some stunningly good data rates. Looking forward however, 4G LTE is different. There are so many bands in play right now that we don’t know if they’ll ever be a global LTE device. There’s the 700 MHz band used by AT&T and Verizon, and Verizon has said that they want to expand 4G LTE into the AWS bands as well; in Europe there’s 800 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2600 MHz, and some operators are even converting their existing 900 MHz and 2100 MHz to 4G LTE; Sprint wants to use the 1900 MHz band; don’t even get us started about Asia.
Update: T-Mobile sent us an email to say that their CTO doesn’t have any knowledge of Apple’s future roadmap. That’s probably true, but then again what do you expect T-Mobile to say to escape the wrath of Apple’s vengeance?