updated 02:10 pm EST, Wed November 30, 2011
Paper says NTT DoCoMo in talks with Apple
NTT DoCoMo may have given clues to Apple making LTE a staple of its next iPad an iPhone. A claim in Japan's Nikkei asserts that the carrier is hoping to carry a 4G iPad by the summer and a matching iPhone by the fall. Apple chief Tim Cook had supposedly had NTT DoCoMo VPs Kiyoyuki Tsujimura and Takashi Yamada visit Apple's campus to successfully make a "basic agreement" and had been hashing out details such as minimum shipment volumes.
None of the details have been confirmed by either of the involved companies.
While they hint at a possible late launch versus the spring and summer iPad and iPhone launches rumored so far, NTT DoCoMo wouldn't necessarily be part of the first wave. Apple staggers launches by country and sometimes by carrier.
The launch could follow a developing pattern of Apple waiting for LTE to reach certain carriers in force before it brings them in. NTT DoCoMo just launched its first Xi 4G tablets in September, after launching the service the year before, and should have reached significantly more coverage by mid-2012. China Mobile has publicly stated that its iPhone plans revolve around LTE.
In either case, the networks have been left out of official iPhone deployments largely because of their non-standard implementations of 2G and 3G service. NTT DoCoMo runs a significant part of its 3G network on the 800MHz band where SoftBank uses more standardized bands. China Mobile uses TD-SCDMA for 3G, a format with little support outside of the country. LTE, including China Mobile's preferred TD-LTE, is giving carriers worldwide a chance to settle on more universal frequencies.
Getting NTT DoCoMo onboard could be vital for Apple. While it now has KDDI side-by-side with original iPhone supporter SoftBank, NTT as the largest Japanese carrier has the most influence. Android overtook the iPhone earlier in the year, but it was helped mostly by Apple's limited carrier support.