Thursday, August 16, 2012

LTE iPhone 5 seems assured as Korean carriers negotiate with Apple

If you need more confirmation that the iPhone 5 will sport LTE 4G - we don't, we are convinced it is a done deal - here it is. Officials with two Korean carriers say they been discussing offering the next-generation iPhone on their LTE networks.

The information comes from the Korea Times. Officials from both SK Telecom and KT, who asked to remain anonymous, reported the information.

One senior KT executive said, "KT is in negotiation with Apple to persuade the latter to support KT's 1.8-gigahertz frequency in Korea for the upcoming iPhone."

It's going to be interesting to see how Apple handles this. The "new iPad" supports LTE, but only in North America, because different carriers use different frequencies for their LTE networks. Apple supports 4G in the form of HSPA+ in other regions.

For example, in the U.S., Verizon uses a 700MHz frequency, while AT&T uses both 700MHz and 2.1GHz. SK and KT both use different frequencies. This might mean that Apple will have to release several hardware variants.

Whether or not Apple wants to do that remains to be seen. In addition, Apple has always been very cautious about new technologies (despite the fact that LTE isn't that new). Remember its cautious step with the first iPhone, when it stayed with EDGE instead of the relatively new (then) 3G?

An SK Telecom executive told the Korea Times, "If Apple's upcoming iPhone again fails to support LTE bandwidths, then this would be a very disappointing scenario as LTE is everywhere in Korea."

As of July, the number of Korean LTE subscribers was about 8.4 million. SK Telecom is Korea's top wireless carrier, and has about 4 million subscribers, while KT, the second-largest carrier in the country, has about 1.4 million.

It is estimated that with burgeoning adoption rates, the number of LTE subscribers in Korea could reach 16 million by the end of this year. It's unclear whether or not that will convince Apple to add support for LTE outside of North America.

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