iPhone 5 International LTE Support: Necessarily Confusing

iPhone 5 International LTE Support

Apple introduced its new iPhone 5 Wednesday as a “world phone,” capable of utilizing high speed cellular data networks in many countries. Like many things international, however, restrictions and limitations apply, especially when it comes to high-speed LTE support. Thankfully, Apple has updated its iPhone product information to assist LTE-obsessed customers with planning their next vacation.

Aside from differences in color and capacity, the iPhone 5 is offered in three models which differentiate the cellular chip inside: the A1428, which supports GSM networks in the United States and Canada, the A1429, which supports CDMA networks in the United States and Japan, and a second A1429, which covers GSM networks internationally.

U.S.-based Verizon and Sprint customers will be given the A1429, which will allow them to access LTE in the United States and in Japan on the KDDI network. This model supports LTE bands 1 (at 2100 MHz), 3 (1800 MHz), 5 (850 MHz), 13 (700c MHz), and 25 (1900 MHz). Verizon currently uses the 700c MHz band and Sprint uses the 1900 MHz band.

U.S-based AT&T customers will be given the A1428 model, which supports only two LTE bands: 4 (Advanced Wireless Service, or AWS, which covers 1710 MHz to 1755 MHz and 2110 to 2155 MHz), and 17 (700b MHz). AT&T is the only U.S. carrier to use AWS bands, which were originally reserved for wireless cable and networking transmissions, although Canadian GSM carriers Bell (Virgin), Rogers (Fido), and Telus (Koodo) also utilize parts of the spectrum.

A second A1429 model, but with GSM support instead of CDMA, will be available for the rest of the world. This model supports common LTE bands 1 (2100 MHz), 3 (1800 MHz), and 5 (850 MHz). Customers in Germany with Deutsche Telekom, the UK on the new Everything Everywhere partnership network between Orange and T-Mobile, Australia on Optus (Virgin) and Telstra, Japan on Softbank, Korea on SK Telecom and KT, Hong Kong on SmarTone, and Singapore on M1 and SingTel, will all receive this model.

The primary reason for the variety of iPhone models is the diverse state of LTE support internationally. In addition to the countries, networks, and bands listed above, additional international carriers are rolling out LTE on bands that Apple does not yet support, including Band 7 (2600 MHz) in countries like Brazil, Denmark, Russia, and Switzerland, Band 20 (800 MHz) in Germany and Sweden, and Band 38 (2600 MHz) in many Middle Eastern countries. No one phone or one cellular chipset can provide support to all bands and configurations.

As the iPhone 5 rolls out and initial demand is met, Apple may choose to release additional models to support these outstanding LTE networks. For customers, however, it means that there is no true world LTE support, and many LTE customers in their home countries will likely have to settle for slower 3G network speeds while traveling abroad.

Teaser graphic made with help from Shutterstock.