updated 10:05 am EDT, Mon September 10, 2012
Still not expected to work with networks in all countries
The iPhone 5 -- expected to be announced on Wednesday -- will support LTE networks in Europe and Asia as well as the US, according to sources for the Wall Street Journal. The people caution that it's unlikely that the device will support LTE in all countries, but a large reach could be important to the marketing of the device. Initially, Apple heavily promoted the third-generation iPad's LTE support; since the tablet is only compatible with US and Canadian LTE bands however, complaints and government pressure forced the company to change its advertising outside North America.
While there are about 22 different 3G bands in use around the world, LTE is split along 36 bands, making it difficult or impossible for a device to be universally compatible. Apple will likely concentrate its efforts on the next biggest LTE networks outside of the US, namely those in Japan and South Korea. Europe has a relatively fractured 4G landscape, where in some cases the bands used for LTE in the US are already occupied by 3G or other broadcasts.
China is another likely target. The world's biggest wireless carrier, China Mobile, has been negotiating for the iPhone for some time, and is building out an LTE network that will finally allow it to support standard high-speed cellular connections. For 3G the company has been relying on a proprietary format that doesn't work outside of China; while there are hacked iPhones on the Mobile network, these have been limited to 2G or Wi-Fi data.