We’ve seen some significant strides for LTE in the past year — with some big names like Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T) getting behind the fast mobile broadband technology and rolling it out for the masses. The latest reports on what Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is cooking up could be another boost: Apple is supposedly looking to include LTE capabilities in the iPhone and iPad devices that it is releasing next year.
According to this report from Nikkei Business (in Japanese; translation here), the Japanese carrier NTT Docomo is gearing up to release a new iPad and iPhone next year that will work on its LTE network by this fall.
The article cites officials close to the matter, and says the details were ironed out in at meeting in mid-November.
If the report is true, this could be one of the biggest boosts for LTE yet. This is why: LTE offers users network speeds that carriers like AT&T claim can be ten times faster than those of 3G data network. That translates into a much better experience on data-heavy streamed services like video, games and music. Given Apple’s track record for making devices that get people using a lot of mobile content, this could be a match made in wireless heaven.
This is not the first time that we have seen reports that Apple is gearing up to include LTE capabilities in its devices. Among the more recent, a report in MacRumors back in August highlighted that there was code for LTE in iOS 5 and that Apple was hiring experts in the technology.
This is, however, possibly one of the first times that we’ve seen Apple and LTE linked up with a specific operator for deployment.
DoCoMo (NYSE: DCM) is not likely to be the only operator working with Apple towards and LTE phone, but it is definitely a good one to have on side. The Japanese carrier is a veritable granddaddy as far as the technology goes — it has been deploying LTE commercially as far back as 2005, although it only launched it first LTE-enabled smartphone in November 2011. That was the Samsung Galaxy II S.
Other markets like the U.S. are showing a big appetite for LTE. A recent report from NPD noted that one in every five smartphones purchased in the U.S. is now 4G-ready. That could include LTE devices, but also those that work on HSPA networks (the “4G” promoted by T-Mobile USA).
If this report turns out to be true, it’s worth asking how Apple is going about incorporating LTE capabilities into its devices. As IntoMobile and others have pointed out, different countries and carriers are not using the same frequencies for their LTE services. Each device has to be tooled to work in those different bands. Will Apple be the first to go with a chipset that can handle multiple LTE flavors, or will it take the route more travelled and work out LTE on a country-by-country basis?