updated 11:05 am EDT, Thu September 29, 2011
Chinese carrier hints at 21Mbps iPhone 5 data
China Unicom Deputy Director Huang Wenliang may have inadvertently spoiled Apple's plans for a big leap in 3G performance on GSM-based iPhones in a presentation on Wednesday. Pointing out network evolution over time at Macworld Beijing, he matter-of-factly claimed that the iPhone 5 would use 21Mbps HSPA+ data that China Unicom had been adding since 2010. The Impress account of events left room open for this to be anticipatory, although China Unicom would need to have some knowledge of Apple's long-term network plans.
Apple is expected to improve 3G speed on GSM networks for its next iPhone regardless of China Unicom's plans. AT&T, major Canadian carriers, and some others abroad all already have HSPA+ on their networks.
The addition of HSPA+ would triple the 7.2Mbps speed available to the current iPhone 4 and would put it on par with other high-end smartphones, such as the Galaxy S II. If accurate, it would also help mitigate concerns that Apple won't have LTE-based 4G in the near term, as current HSPA+ 3G is only sometimes slower than LTE in real-world conditions.
CDMA iPhones on Sprint, Verizon, and more won't get any speed improvements from the addition since virtually no carriers have advanced past the older EVDO Rev A standard for 3G.