Updated. Apple isn’t one to talk about its future plans, but that doesn’t always stop partners or potential partners from sometimes spilling the beans. Case in point: T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told Cnet in an interview Tuesday that Apple’s “next chipset will support AWS.” That means the iPhone could soon be available on a bunch of different networks, including T-Mobile’s in the U.S., which uses the AWS spectrum.
It probably shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. After all, most expect Apple’s next iPhone to support 4G LTE technology, which runs at least in part on AWS spectrum. Verizon has especially invested heavily in AWS to enable its LTE network, planning to spend about $4 billionto buy airwaves from the cable providers. But Ray’s definite statements go a long way toward confirming Apple will at least have the building blocks of LTE support in place with its next-generation iPhone. Update: T-Mobile reached out to let us know that Ray in fact has not seen Apple’s specific roadmap, but that he believes “Apple has the option to move to AWS with the roadmap of chipsets on the market today.”
That isn’t a guarantee that T-Mobile will be an iPhone carrier with the next iPhone’s launch. Ray was careful to note in talking with Cnet that Apple could easily not take advantage of the device’s hardware compatibility and skip reaching an agreement with T-Mobile. Also, AWS antennas in an iPhone 5 might just be needed to support LTE, so there’s no guarantee that Apple will extend its use to 3G networks like the HSPA+ network that T-Mobile employs. But adding AWS compatibility has implications beyond just T-Mobile.
In the U.S., other big players that use AWS spectrum include Cricket and MetroPCS, both of which use the band for their CDMA networks. Cricket reaches around 7 million customers, while MetroPCS’s network covers 8.9 million subscribers. In Canada, the other major market where AWS spectrum is used, upstart low-cost alternatives to the big three, Wind Mobile and Mobility, have AWS networks, and major providers Bell and Rogers are using it to build out their own next-gen LTE networks.
Apple simplified its product offerings with the iPhone 4S by including world phone support, providing compatibility with a wide range of spectrums. Adding AWS support would not only put LTE support within reach, it could also potentially open up the iPhone to a whole new segment of customers, should Apple choose to explore 3G support on the AWS band as well.