Next-generation iPhone compatible with 4G Long Term Evolution?

6 Apr 2009

Apple’s forthcoming next-generation iPhone – expected to be unveiled at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco on 8 June – will come with a Griffin iTrip-style FM transmitter and 802.11.n Wi-Fi connectivity that uses similar frequencies as Long Term Evolution (LTE).

The forthcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware is also rumoured to come with video-recording capabilities and enhanced wireless networking.

However, according to Apple rumours site AppleInsider, the new device will contain a chip that enables low power 802.11n.

Long Term Evolution, or 4G, is the next step for today’s existing 3G networks, and is a competing standard to the WiMax wide area Wi-Fi standard being championed by Intel.

LTE uses ODFM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) and, in later releases, MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) antenna technology similar to that used in the IEEE 802.11n wireless local area network (WLAN) standard.

According to AppleInsider, wireless radio component specifications contained within beta distributions of iPhone 3.0 firmware reveal support for 802.11n bound for new iPhone models.

The version of the existing Broadcome chip that supplies Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on existing models jumps from BCM4325 to BCM4329, according to resource files reserved for the third-generation iPod touch. Effectively, this adds new support for 802.11n features, including the ability to find and join 5GHz networks.

“New support for 802.11n in the upcoming iPhone and iPod touch models would also provide the devices with additional network speed and reception range features of the significantly faster 802.11n specification, which are related to channel bonding (using two channels at once to double the top reception speed) and MIMO, the ability to use multiple transmit and receive antennas to improve reception speed and range,” AppleInsider said.

In recent days, rumours have persisted that O2 is trying to clear itself of stock of 3G iPhone devices in anticipation of a new family of iPhones.

The big question is whether Apple will continue its exclusive multi-year arrangement with O2, and if the operator will once again be granted the franchise for the introduction of the ground-breaking smart phone.

It is understood that the original contract came with a two-year break clause. In the US, AT&T’s arrangement with O2 ended last week, and rival operators are eyeing the franchise hungrily.

LTE is scheduled to be launched commercially in 2010 by Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless. T-Mobile and Alltel have also announced plans to roll out 4G capabilities based on LTE.

In Ireland, O2, Vodafone, Meteor and Hutchison Whampoa have all signalled that their future networks will move to LTE.

According to the GSMA, some 26 mobile operators around the world – including Hutchison’s 3 operation in Ireland – have plans to launch LTE service in 2010 and 2011.

The list also includes Verizon, MetroPCS, CenturyTel, Aircell, Cox and AT&T Mobility in the US, which aim to launch their LTE services in 2010 and 2011; NTT DoCoMo and KDDI in Japan, which aim to launch LTE in 2010; T-Mobile in Germany and Orange in France, which will launch in 2011; and TeliaSonera in Norway and Sweden, which will launch in 2010.

By John Kennedy