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No LTE iPhone in 2011 Because There’s No LTE

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Verizon LTE Coverage

The on-again, mostly off-again rumor of an LTE iPhone (s aapl) is likely to remain off for the rest of 2011, at least according to the latest from DigiTimes. Citing “industry sources,” DigiTimes reports, “problems concerning yield rates of LTE chips offered by Qualcomm” is the latest issue with an LTE iPhone. Of course, the real problem remains a lack of coverage.

Despite Verizon’s (s vz) attempt at obfuscation in the chart above, the only U.S. carrier with 4G service worth mentioning doesn’t have much to show for LTE so far. Only cities with the yellow circles actually have the service, the green stars being planned for later this year. Not surprisingly, that’s still better than AT&T (s t), which claims “4G” service with its HSPA+ upgrade, with LTE having an “initial” launch sometime this year. That’s important to the prospects of an LTE iPhone, because Apple still sells about a third of its iPhones in the U.S., making it easily the single largest market.

Internationally, the situation is even less favorable for an LTE iPhone, though there is interest, notably in China. Last month, Bloomberg reported Chairman of China Mobile Wang Jianzhou said Steve Jobs had “expressed his interest in an LTE iPhone and is willing to start the development at an early date.” China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile phone provider, with more than 600 million subscribers. China Mobile is currently in the process of large-scale testing of TD-LTE networks in several large cities.

It’s also rumored China Mobile may be getting the next generation of iPhone for its TD-SCDMA network. That makes sense for Apple, as the company has explicitly stated China is a major focus for future growth. However, it’s unlikely LTE networks will reach maturity in China by even the end of 2012, unlike in the U.S. Since coverage should be quite good by 2012, we can very likely expect an LTE iPhone to debut in the U.S. next year. For that reason, the rumored iPhone 4S for this fall will be the first model I pass on. How about you?

5 Responses to “No LTE iPhone in 2011 Because There’s No LTE”

  1. “that’s still better than AT&T, which claims “4G” service with its HSPA+ upgrade”

    Why put the HSPA+ “4G” service in quotation marks, but not the LTE “4G”. It’s like you’re implying that LTE is a 4G standard, when it’s quite clearly not.

    ITU-R have said they can be marketed as 4G providing that this leads to speeds of around 1Gbps.

    But we’re nowhere near getting true 4G yet.

  2. James Martin

    Best plan would be to get whatever phone you want now and then you don’t have to settle next time your contract is up in 2 years, LTE will be everywhere and you’ll have a wide range of phone options

  3. Tom Lorbeer

    I believe the main reason Apple will probably pass on a 4G LTE iPhone this time around is short battery life, not LTE availability. As I understand, 4G LTE is a battery hog. Until Apple can address that issue, I think the earliest we’ll see a 4G LTE iPhone will be sometime during 2012.

  4. Knowing the tactics of cellphone companies, when the LTE or 4G iPhone comes out, there will be a nice increase to the monthly bill that comes with it. I don’t find the gain of 4G that much important to increase an already high bill. On top of that a lacking coverage from AT&T and the roll out for only major cities, leaves the persons on medium markets not so impressed with the idea…at least myself. It may not be a great idea for Apple to jump on the 4G wagon yet, for the price increase for a monthly bill, may warn off current and/or future buyers of the iPhone.