iPhone 5 LTE support in SA

According to the Apple website, the newly announced iPhone 5 will come in a number of models that support different mobile network frequency bands.

Two model numbers are listed on the Apple website: A1428 and A1429.

Apple’s site suggests that the A1428 seems to be targeted at the North American GSM networks, supporting Long Term Evolution (LTE) bands 4 and 17.

Model A1429 of the iPhone has two “sub-models”: one for CDMA networks and the other for GSM network.

Although the A1428 and A1429 GSM both support the same 3G (UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA) and GSM/EDGE frequencies, based on the supported LTE bands it seems most likely that South Africa will receive the A1429 model.

The iPhone 5 A1429 GSM supports LTE bands 1 (2,100MHz), 3 (1,800MHz), and 5 (850 MHz).

Kanagaratnam Lambotharan
Kanagaratnam Lambotharan

South Africa’s LTE plans

Although LTE roll-outs are being held up by the Department of Communications in South Africa, MTN have said that they plan to commercially launch LTE by the end of 2012 using re-farmed 1,800MHz spectrum.

8ta, Telkom’s consumer mobile arm, has also said that it is upgrading its network to get ready for a potential commercial LTE launch in 2013.

Telkom also has spectrum in the 1,800MHz band, but it hasn’t been specific about its LTE plans.

It is also expected that South Africa will use the 2.6GHz band for LTE, and eventually the 800MHz band once our migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasting is complete.

Although the iPhone 5’s 1,800MHz support matches up with MTN’s LTE plans, Apple warns on its website that band support does not guarantee support on all LTE networks running on the same bands.

What does this mean for iPhone 5 in South Africa?

This raises some important questions: will the iPhone 5’s LTE work in South Africa? How does it fit in with operators’ plans? Should consumers be worried that their iPhone 5 might lose LTE capabilities (or not have them at all) when the 2.6GHz band gets allocated in South Africa?

A Vodacom spokesperson said that these were great questions, but that they could unfortunately not give definitive answers at this stage.

MTN SA’s chief technology officer, Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, said that they are focused on providing an efficient data service to its customers through LTE.

“MTN cannot comment on behalf of Apple regarding specifications of the iPhone 5,” Kanagaratnam continued, “but can confirm that its LTE pilot project is running on the 1,800MHz band, an LTE band that Iphone 5 seems to support.”

8ta was also asked about the iPhone 5’s LTE support in the context of their LTE plans, but did not provide feedback by the time of publication.

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iPhone 5 LTE support in SA