Earlier in the week we reported that, due to LTE fragmentation, Apple was forced to make three different versions of the iPhone 5. A CDMA handset, and two GSM models, one specifically for AT&T.

As it turns out, there’s something weird about the AT&T model. It’s been recently discovered, via leaked FCC documentation, that it supports LTE on two unlisted bands, cellular and PCS..

It’s ExtremeTech with the find:

“Officially, Apple states that it supports LTE band class 17 (lower 700MHz without A block) and LTE band class 4 (AWS-1, 1.7GHz/2.1GHz) for Release 9 LTE. However, the FCC documents for the device state that it also supports LTE band class 2 (PCS, 1.9GHz) and LTE band class 5 (Cellular 850, 850MHz) as well. That means that this device actually supports four LTE bands, not two.”

By itself, this might not look like anything. But GigaOM points out that AT&T has been openly shopping around for new bands to deploy LTE, since its current network will only take it so far.

And since it lost a lot of its AWS spectrum to T-Mobile when the acquisition deal went south last year — it was part of the break-up fee, it has two choices: buy new airspace, or refarm its own.

“It just submitted an enormously complex proposal to the FCC that would allow it to turn its now useless 2.3 GHz into a private LTE band. But with these new frequencies in the iPhone hint at another possibility: Ma Bell may be planning to cannibalize its 2G and 3G networks to gain more LTE capacity.”

Just as T-Mobile is refarming its network to be more iPhone-friendly, AT&T is asking the permission of the Federal Communications Commission to refarm its unusable 2.3 GHz spectrum into LTE.

All carriers will eventually have to do this to their networks as wireless tech evolves. But that’s not expected to happen for several years. So, again, it’s weird that the new iPhone is supporting it now.

Could AT&T really be planning a major network overhaul?

  • Orbigod

    What does this mean, i found it on the page of specs (iPhone 5 (Model A1428): M3, T4
    iPhone 5 (Model A1429): M4, T4)
    Next to rating of hearing aids. Anybody have any idea what does it mean?

    • yea theres going to be a bmw m3 iphone and a terminator 4 model lol

      • alphablondy

        And when Terminator 4 comes out, there is going to be an iPhone 5 model for that one too 🙂

    • flyingburgers

      The FCC requires phones be tested for hearing aid compatibility, related to whether they make that buzzing sound in speakers. They are rated on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the best. M means microphone mode on the hearing aid, T means telecoil mode where the hearing aid picks up the magnetic field from the speaker.

  • I’ve been on AT&T EDGE only since 2007. They recently said EDGE would be gone by 2016 FML

  • So if I would travel with this phone to Europe or the Middle East or South Asia, would it still receive and originate calls and SMS? Or not? (cost of calls or text not-withstanding)