The ‘iPhone 13’ Will Bring Ultrafast 5G to More Countries (But Which Ones?)

iPhone 12 5G UW indicator Credit: Verizon
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It looks like more iPhone users will be able to enjoy the fastest 5G speeds this year, with multiple reports suggesting that Apple will be releasing its mmWave-capable 5G iPhone models outside the U.S. for the first time.

Although Apple added 5G capabilities to the iPhone 12 lineup last year, the iPhones sold in most of the world only supported the slower sub-6GHz 5G technologies, which in many cases support speeds that are only marginally faster than 4G/LTE, especially among carriers that haven’t fully deployed independent 5G infrastructure.

The iPhone 12 models released in the U.S., however, added the extra antennas necessary to support the higher mmWave frequencies that can offer download speeds of up to 4Gbps. This allowed Verizon and AT&T customers to get insanely fast cellular speeds — as long as they were within range of the relatively limited mmWave towers.

Unfortunately, a recent analysis has suggested that this isn’t as often as you might think, and perhaps adding insult to injury, both AT&T and Verizon have spent so much time focusing on mmWave in major urban centres that their sub-6GHz 5G speeds are disappointing, to say the least — to the point that T-Mobile actually runs circles around them in overall speeds, even without any mmWave towers.

Nonetheless, Apple clearly isn’t going to let the situation in the U.S. hold it back from bringing mmWave 5G to more iPhones around the world, with a new report from Digitimes suggesting that over 50 percent of this year’s “iPhone 13” models are going to support the ultrafast 5G, preparing for other carriers around the world who are or will soon be offering mmWave services in their markets.

This latest report confirms what we’ve already heard from reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo earlier this year, although Digitimes does put some actual numbers around it.

mmWave Expansion

What’s less clear, however, is which countries, or even how many, will be fortunate enough to have mmWave models available. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the U.S. makes up over 30 percent of global iPhone sales, which means that well over half of the mmWave production is already accounted for.

The relatively small increase suggests that Apple isn’t planning to roll out the new mmWave-capable phones to any other larger markets such as China. However, mmWave hasn’t really proliferated in China either, so there’s not much point in selling mmWave-capable iPhone models there yet.

Before the release of the iPhone 12, Kuo had predicted that the mmWave versions would be available in several countries other than the U.S., including Canada, Japan, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and while he clearly missed the mark on that one, he was one of the few analysts who dissented with the then-popular opinion that the mmWave models would be released separately later.

These countries still seem to be the most likely candidates for the mmWave versions, but considering how Apple breaks down its iPhone lineup, we could even see these limited to Canada & Japan, due to the 4G and 5G frequencies used in those countries as opposed to the rest of the world.

With the iPhone 12, Apple made four versions of each model: with individual sets for the U.S., Canada/Japan, mainland China/Hong Kong/Macao, plus a set of models for the rest of the world.

While the lines for the “iPhone 13” could be drawn a bit differently, the model differences as they exist now are due at least partially to the common frequencies used between the carriers in different countries. With the iPhone 11 and iPhone XR, Canada shared a common model with the U.S., but the move to mmWave 5G caused the U.S. model to split off on its own, although the Canada/Japan version still supports all the same frequencies except for the two mmWave bands. In fact, this is the same version that’s also sold in the U.S. territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This also means that a U.S. iPhone 12 will work fine in Canada or the U.S. territories, and any phone purchased for one of these countries or territories will work on any U.S. carrier — minus the mmWave support, of course.

So, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Apple to go back to releasing a single set of iPhone 13 models to cover most of the North American carriers, plus Japan, thereby also possibly reducing the number of different models it has to manufacture down from the record-setting 16 iPhone 12 variations to an even dozen.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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