Well, C Spire and U.S. Cellular are building out their LTE networks, which would seem to make them excellent candidates for Apple’s first 4G smartphone. The problem is the spectrum these operators use doesn’t match up with exactly with the frequencies used by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Technically, all of them are building their networks at 700 MHz, but those 700 MHz airwaves have been sliced and diced into a bunch of different sections, called band classes, to meet the technical requirements of the big operators.
That means device makers have to make choices on whether to include support for the regional operators LTE networks when they design their devices. So far they seem to be favoring the big guys over the pipsqueaks, if Apple’s band decisions for its new 4G iPad are any indication. In a recent post, ExtremeTech’s Neal Gompa broke down the frequencies the two versions of the iPad supported and found while Apple had tailored the CDMA version for Verizon’s LTE frequencies and the GSM version for AT&T’s, C Spire and U.S. Cellulars’ band class 12 was nowhere to be found.
If Apple makes the same technical choices for its next smartphone then not just rural and regional operators will be cut off from any LTE iPhone, but possibly even Sprint. The whole world may be unifying under a single 4G technology, but spectrum politics are creating new rifts.