Less than four weeks from Apple’s September 12 iPhone 5 event, U.S. carriers continue aggressive deployment of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, making it all too easy to get carried away with the wonders of high-speed 4G networking on the next iPhone.

After all, 4G is thought to be one of the headline features of the device. On the other hand, this is going to be the first iPhone ever to have 4G, meaning some limitations and teething problems are likely to be expected, as is always the case with first-gen everything from Apple.

Regular users will probably assume that just because the next iPhone is 4G LTE, it’s gonna work on whatever carrier’s fourth-generation LTE network. That may not be the case and if the third-generation iPad is an indication, the iPhone 5 could disappoint some international users with limited support for LTE frequency bands.

That being said, we’re asking you to take a long and hard look at the current state of technology and vote on the kind of LTE support you think the iPhone 5 will have…

Just a little backgrounder before we get down to business.

Case in point: the third-generation iPad, the first iPad to feature 4G LTE networking. While Cupertino insisted on marketing the device as 4G the world over, Australian watchdog forced Apple to rebrand the WiFi + 4G iPad as WiFi + Cellular.

The iPad 3 supports only 700/2100MHz LTE bands, mostly used by major carriers in the United States and Bell, Rogers and Telus in Canada. In Europe, it’s 800/1800/2600MHz bands. Australia uses only the 1800MHz band for LTE and Asia is on the 1,800/2,600MHz bands.

As a result, wireless devices from one country may not work in other countries.

Whether or not the next iPhone is a multi-band phone capable of roaming internationally is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: supporting the numerous 4G frequencies in use across the world could be a daunting task.

Though Apple likes to use cutting-edge silicon in their mobile gear, the company typically steers away from first-generation technology to avoid teething problems.

Qualcomm already has chips for the job, the MDM9615 and 9215.

Representing a fifth iteration of the Gobi line and supporting a long list of wireless technologies (including LTE, HSPA, EV-DO, CDMA, TD-SCDMA and TD-LTE), these are likely candidates to enable true world-phone compatibility on Apple’s upcoming handset.

Qualcomm’s LTE roadmap, as of last October. Courtesy of AnandTech.

However, Qualcomm has a newer chip in the works that supports up to seven LTE frequency bands: three below 1GHz, three above and one ultra-high 2.5GHz band. As such, it could elegantly address the fractured 700MHz band in one fell swoop.

Back in June, Qualcomm promised to begin shipping this chip the following month. First devices based on it (the iPhone 5?) were expected to reach store shelves by the end of 2012.

Adding fuel to fire, supply chain sources chimed in back in June with claims that Qualcomm and Broadcom had begun delivering unnamed cellular and WiFi chips to Apple, fabbed on TSMC’s 28-nanometer process.

With that in mind, do cast your vote now.

As for me, as much as I want the next iPhone to support high-speed networking anywhere there’s LTE, I’m afraid a true world-phone LTE compatibility is in store for the next year’s hardware refresh.

As always, feel free to explain your vote and add up to the conversation down in the comments.

  • Alec Vanek

    How are you supposed to get LTE in countries that doesn’t have it?

  • Usually Apple makes their iPhones exactly like the iPad hardware wise. I would be very surprised if the LTE is compatible world wide.

  • If Apple plays the same trick as it did with the new iPad, they might be getting some heat. Carriers want to sell their LTE service, people want to use – or have the choice to – it, I don’t think it would be that hard to create some iPad with their antennas tweaked to a couple different frequencies.

    I live in Portugal and unexpectedly, 4G has grown and matured a lot, I’m afraid that if Apple keeps paying attention only to the US and UK, I might agree when people call them self-centered.

    Edit: And is totally out of question to have the antenna’s frequency changed by software? Just asking, but I mean, a simple digital radio can tune to different radio frequencies using software.

    • rohta

      It is not like tuning radio, as you said. Every standard has it’s own demands of sensibility, filtering, amplifying, SNR, IP3, etc.
      If you get it in a certain RF frequency or range for a certain standard, it is not automatically guarantee that you will get it in any RF frequencies, although it is a common effort of RF designers to make this frequency range “as large as possible”.
      It is more an IC issue than antenna.
      I’ve worked a bit with it and I do know that this kind of multi-band, multi-standard chip is extremely complex and far from being a “tuning radio” problem.

  • Is even possible to be a World LTE phone? I mean evry carrier have a different MHz for their LTE, is possible to a chip to support 1000 different frequencies!?

  • @dongiuj

    Is the next iphone going to be a world phone LTE compatible?
    Poll should be “Yes” or “No”

  • Im not so into LTE , but it would be cool if included 🙂 I can only see a problem with that: massive battery drain :/

    • Not Really…
      If we test WiFi (faster) vs. 3G(slower), 3G is going to cause more battery drainage, because it’s going to take longer to load anything vs WiFi
      Therefore if we test 4G(faster) vs 3G(slower)… 4G is going to cause less battery drainage vs. 3G cause its going to load things faster.

      • think about it terms of pushing a car. The car (size of the download item) doesn’t change, but if you try and move it at walking speed (3g downloading) you tire at a rate of X if you try and push it at running speed (LTE) you tire at 2X

        not a perfect analogy, but that is essentially the theory behind it. That was the reason that LTE was not included in the 4S, LTE chips were still too power hungry

      • Bullshit… Although the idea is almost correct.

  • If it’s not a “world-phone” (next-generation speeds on most partnered carriers) then the iPhone 5 is essentially a non-event. It’ll be ridiculous if it’s not.

  • world phone? yes. world LTE? no

  • IMO it would not be a smart business move to not include world LTE, in 2010 80% of iPhone sales were outside the US, while that number has probably changed since then, it’s still going to be a large % of iPhone sales.

    Anyone outside the US buying a new phone, will not get any benefit of one of the key selling points of the new phone.

    tl;dr They have to include LTE or risk a huge impact to their foreign sales

  • LTE World connectivity is a must, else i would not buy the new iPhone at all.

  • I expect it to be a “world-phone”, because here in Germany we don’t use any of these Frequencies: 700/2,100/1,800MHz and/or whatever US and Canada use.
    We use 800MHz and 2,6GHz, and as Germany was always one of the first Countries that gets the new iPhone it looks like the German Market is important to Apple, so it would be better for them to support our Frequencies.

  • Maybe we’ll have to wait another year before there’s a world standard LTE iPhone.

  • Don’t care, the iPhone 12 will be out by the time 4g hits the uk.

  • JayJBK

    iPhone is very different from iPad, in that People primarily iPhones through cellular carriers. In other words, cellular connectivity is far more important for iPhones than iPads. Since Apple only does yearly updates of iPhones, I cannot fathom their foregoing LTE support in markets other than North America. Even if Apple couldn’t engineer a single world phone with LTE capabilities for everywhere, the size of iPhone business is big and important enough for Apple that they could release different versions for different regions. i.e. one for North America, one for Europe, one for Asia, etc. Apple released CDMA only iPhone 4 just for Verizon. I think they would (and should, if they expect to stay relevant in international markets) do something similar to support different bands.

  • tomtubbs

    Qualcomm will do what it did last time, and with the BT4 chip also – it’s announcement will be part of the iPhone release.
    Everything Everywhere really indicates 1800MHz Europe or at least Uk compatibility.
    Vodafone and O2 are worried – why wouldn’t Apple make a short term deal with EE? Korea on the same frequency, Aistralia – would make sense.
    Qualcomm have been coy as to what the chips do – but seems strange Apple would miss it another year.
    If on the small chance they do – we’d at least get faster rate 3G