iPhone 5 release date: Apple finally brings 4G capabilities to the iPhone, but when will we see 5G?

NEW YORK -- It's the moment wireless carriers have been dreaming of: Apple finally brought 4G capabilities to the iPhone, enabling phone companies to begin dismantling their aging 3G networks.

The iPhone 5, which Apple unveiled Wednesday, will be the first iPhone to support a 4G wireless technology called Long Term Evolution, or LTE. Even though carriers have spent billions upgrading to 4G, and many high-end smartphones and tablets (including the iPad) currently support LTE networks, 4G device sales have lagged.

The iPhone is the inflection point 4G needed. Apple's smartphone is by far the most popular cell phone on the market.

"It's going to push a lot of people to 4G," said Ken Dulaney, analyst at Gartner. "In five to six years, they'll be able to just shut 3G down."

That will be a relief for carriers. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and others have been forced to simultaneously maintain three networks -- 2G, 3G and 4G -- in order to support customers with all varieties of flip phones, feature phones and smartphones.

It's expensive and incredibly inefficient. 4G networks are able to cram significantly more data into their wireless spectrum than 3G and especially 2G. Earlier network technologies occupy a huge swath of valuable spectrum that carriers would like to shift to 4G.

That's exactly what they intend to do, industry analysts say. The three nationwide iPhone carriers declined to discuss their plans for spectrum reallocation.

3G's extinction will be slow and gradual, but it's coming. Right now, there are still customers with cell phones that only support 2G networks, which are still used for text messages and voice calls. That's about to change: A new protocol called Voice over LTE, or VoLTE (pronounced "VOLT-ee"), will be the standard by 2015.

That will spell the end for 2G. Just a couple years later, 3G is expected to wheeze its last breaths. Analysts predict that carriers will offer free 4G phone upgrades to pry the last remaining holdouts away from their aging devices.

Meanwhile, current 3G customers could start to notice a performance bump -- not much, but a little. As more customers leave for 4G, the network congestion issues that have plagued 3G in some locations will likely ease up a bit, Gartner's Dulaney said.

Carriers' next concern will be preserving their 4G network performance. To promote their new networks, providers have been advertising flashy features such as broadband-like speeds that enable high-definition mobile video on the go. But if millions of iPhone 5 customers all start streaming videos, network congestion will follow.

"Soon, with all those 4G iPhone customers using higher amounts of data, 4G will be clogged up too," Dulaney noted. "Then, we'll need 5G."

Print this article Back to Top

Comments

Read more...

$99 iPhone 6 coming on Black Friday $99 iPhone 6 coming on Black Friday

John Matarese reports on one of the biggest deals expected for Black Friday

Free iPhone 6 from Verizon...what Free iPhone 6 from Verizon...what's the catch?

John Matarese checks out the most unusual offer ever for a new iPhone.

Apple presentó la patente para un nuevo reloj inteligente Apple presentó la patente para un nuevo reloj inteligente

El dispositivo presentado en la patente puede usarse sin necesidad de un smartphone

Love Amazon on Your iPad Love Amazon on Your iPad

Just because you buy your phones and tablets from Apple, does NOT mean you have to buy your movies and TV shows through the iTunes Store. The List's Conor Knighton has some valuable tips on purchasing digital media on your iPad, using Amazon. Conor, #WhatsTheDeal?

iPhone 6 plans leaked: Bigger, thinner iPhone 6 plans leaked: Bigger, thinner

John Matarese has a preview of Apple's upcoming new iPhone.

Alexis Gonzalez charged with stealing merchandise from several Best Buy stores Alexis Gonzalez charged with stealing merchandise from several Best Buy stores

Boynton Beach Police say that a man using fraudulent identification hit electronic stores for computers and other devices.

Police and victim say Apple returned stolen iPhone to alleged thief instead of victim Police and victim say Apple returned stolen iPhone to alleged thief instead of victim

A Boca Raton woman called the Consumer Watchdog when she and detectives couldn't get Apple to return a stolen iPhone. We expose how thieves are exploiting an Apple policy.

Apple (APPL) iPhone iOS 7 software update: Users complain parallax causes motion sickness, vertigo Apple (APPL) iPhone iOS 7 software update: Users complain parallax causes motion sickness, vertigo

The latest software update for iPhones and iPads is nauseating for some users.

Apple (APPL) iPhone 5 shortage denied, Apple Stores have healthy supplies of iPhone 5s, analysts say Apple (APPL) iPhone 5 shortage denied, Apple Stores have healthy supplies of iPhone 5s, analysts say

The iPhone 5 went on sale September 14, selling 5 million units over its first weekend. The device has been plagued by rumors of supply chain problems since then.