New iPhones don't support Sprint's new TD-LTE add-on network

New Apple 5s and 5c devices do support Sprint's existing LTE network; carrier expects next iPhone generation will support Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum

The new iPhone models, the 5s and 5c, don't include antenna support for the 2.5 GHz TD-LTE network that Sprint is installing along with the LTE 1900 MHz network rollout.

Sprint Chief Financial Officer Joe Euteneuer confirmed that the new Apple smartphones won't include for the new 2.5 GHz spectrum, also called Band 41, at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference on Wednesday.

Apple omitted Band 41 from the new iPhones, even though Apple officials on Tuesday had described the phones as having support for more LTE bands "than any other smartphone in the world."

Sprint is currently rolling out the TD-LTE service over 2.5 GHz obtained from Clearwire to 5,500 cell towers by the end of the year, Euteneuer said. The added coverage will also bring faster speeds -- theoretically as much as 50 Mbps -- than the current Sprint LTE speeds averaging 6-8 Mbps.

Sprint will sell both new iPhone models and expects that the Apple devices will continue to drive new customers to Sprint stores. The new phones will function over 1900 MHz LTE, which Sprint has deployed in more than 151 cities on more than 20,000 cell towers, as of July, a Sprint spokesman confirmed.

"We expect no impact at all" from the absence of 2.5 GHz LTE support in the new iPhones, said the Sprint spokesman, Scott Sloat, by telephone.

Both new iPhones "will still run on Sprint's [current 1900 MHz] LTE network just as the iPhone 5 currently does," Sloat said. "That network is expected to cover 200 million [people] by year end, so it isn't an issue."

Even so, Euteneuer indirectly indicated some disappointment in the lack of 2.5 GHz support in the new iPhones. "We don't control [Apple's] product roadmap. I wish we did," he said at the conference.

Sprint has posted a webcast (registration required) of Euteneuer's conference comments on its Web site.

Euteneuer revealed that 40% of all iPhone buyers at Sprint are new customers, an indication of how important the product has been for the carrier since it began carrying the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S two years ago.

Other smartphones that work over 2.5 GHz TD-LTE are "in development," Euteneuer said. He said he expects that the next iPhone, which could be announced in a year, will support 2.5 GHz.

TD-LTE stands for Time Division Long Term Evolution, a means of sending a wireless transmission in both directions on the same frequency band at slightly different time intervals.

Sprint's current LTE rollout over 1900 MHz, like many others in the U.S., functions over FD-LTE, or Frequency Division LTE technology. FD-LTE requires two frequencies -- one acting as the transmit channel and the other for the receive channel.

Sprint is also in the process of rolling out FD-LTE over 800 MHz spectrum, using repurposed spectrum from the discontinued Nextel National Network, which ceased operation on June 30.

Both new iPhones support TD-LTE in some bands, but not Band 41 that's needed by Sprint.

China Mobile has authorized bands 38, 39 and 40 in 2.6 GHz, 1900 MHz and 2.3 GHz, respectively, for its TD-LTE network, and all three bands are supported by the new iPhones. A deal between Apple and China Mobile is expected, but has not yet been announced.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: IT Certification Study Tips
Editors' Picks
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies