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Divide to Conquer: 3 LTE iPhones not 1 model for the world
Written by Dave Burstein   
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 02:17
lte-frequency-fragmentationArticle retraction: I've learned that AT&T and Verizon are pressuring Apple to hardware lock the LTE iPhone to their networks. It's therefore incorrect to speak of "an" U.S. iPhone. Most likely, there will be several, each effectively unable to be used on other LTE networks. LTE phones require SAW filters and other RF components for each different frequency band. Based on engineering recommendations, I thought the U.S. LTE iPhone would cover 4 or 5 bands. While it's impractical to cover all 35 LTE bands in a small phone, small cheap components that cover 4 or 5 bands would cover most of U.S. LTE. It's cheaper to have a single model.
  But I hear - unconfirmed - that the Big 2 want to make it impossible to, for example, use the phone you get from Verizon later on on T-Mobile or Sprint's network.
   Unbreakable phones are obviously anti-competitive but I doubt JG will do anything about this. Rather than the 3 phones the original article expected, there will be more models locked to carriers by frequency.
A World iPhone? Fuggedaboutit. There will be separate versions for Asia, Europe & U.S.. Each will work as 3G iPhones while visiting other parts of the world. 3GPP defines 25 different frequency bands to fit the spectrum owned by carriers in different countries, with different bands chosen by each country/carrier. 
    A world iPhone would be a half-inch or more longer than a regional model. For each of 10-15 bands, the phone would require saw filters and other passives. It would be bigger, heavier and a battery hog.Neither Steve Jobs nor Tim Cook would accept that choice. 
    Verizon is using 700 MHz; Deutsche Telekom 800; AT&T 850; Sweden 900; Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom 1800, and TeliaSonera 2600. Much of the spectrum coming to the European market will be around 900 MHz. Japan uses 1500 MHz and 2300 MHz. The U.S. is looking at 1900 and others. 
ifixit_iPhone_teardown    Hundred of engineers worldwide are working to reduce the size of the passive components and combine them into efficient modules. Software defined radios are still too large and power hungry. Barring a virtual miracle, no appropriate multi-band technology will be ready for the first iPhone due near the end of 2012. Few expect that to change for years. 
    Apple as usual is mum on the subject.  


Sources: The specific that the iPhone will have three models is my reporting. Julian Bright of Informa reports spectrum plans around the world. His projections for spectrum use in 2016 are at the left. Wireless Intelligence/GSMA offers a useful chart that shows how fragmentation will grow, via Kivin Fitchard. iFixIt's photo above comes from their iPhone teardown