Practically any American news media/blog item you will read about today about the new “3G iPhone” will be yakking about the “3G speeds” that you can get out of this baby. In reality, the 3G speed limits you’ll be reading about are imposed by the AT&T network. Hence, even Apple’s own iPhone 3G site talks about being 2.4x faster than GSM/EDGE.
How fast is that exactly? AT&T news releases have pointed to a speed limit of about 1.4 MBPS. Any Philippine 3G junkie will tell you that’s way out of the ballpark for 3G, which tops out at 384 kbps. That is HSDPA territory, baby. High Speed Download Packet Access. Three-point-five G.
Why aren’t they calling it iPhone HSDPA or 3.5G then? Marketing. Look, it’s bad enough that the average Joe Shmoe in America doesn’t know what “3G” is and you’re going to confuse him with this HSDPA business?
“3G” has the right amount of tech-iness assigned to it, is a little snappier, and is easier to remember than “HSDPA” or even “HSPA”.
Let’s see how much mileage Apple and AT&T get out of the 3G cachet. In the Philippines, Smart Communications and Globe have figured out that the Juan in the street responds to the term “mobile internet” better than 3G and have shifted marketing gears accordingly. It’s just emerging player Sun Cellular who still trumpets “3G” for its upcoming 3G service (Soon in *Ortigas* and *Makati*!)
But back to the iPhone’s speed limit.
The published specs on Apple’s site give us the tale o’ the tape:
- UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
- GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Engadget has gone so far as to the publish the internal hardware that hints at the device’s speediness:
- Infineon PMB6952 / S-GOLD3 six-band UMTS / HSDPA transceiver
- Murata LMRX3JCA-479 tri-band amplifier
- Sony SP9T antenna switch for GSM / UMTS dual mode
- Skyworks 77427 chip – UMTS / HSDPA tx 1900MHz, rx 2100MHz
- Skyworks 77414 chip – UMTS / HSDPA 1900MHz
- Skyworks 77413 chip – UMTS / HSDPA 850MHz
So it’s a quad-band GSM phone, which means it should provide GPRS and EDGE service in Asia, Europe – and the rest of the world — as well as the land where standards forgot (i.e. North America).
More interesting is that it supports all three UMTS frequencies – 850, 1900, 2100. Now this is the icing on the cake, and begs one to ask how fast the iPhone will really go. These frequencies are not North America specific. But they are the frequencies being used in places in the world where mobile carriers are maxing the bejeezus out of UMTS.
In many places around the world (the UK and Singapore for example), you’ll get a speed limit of 3.6 MBPS. Some territories are providing 7.2 MBPS. And at least one territory, Australia, has a carrier providing a blistering 14.4 MBPS nationwide. In fact, it’s so fast they don’t even bother calling it 3.5G, they’ve adapted the monicker “Next-G”.
If the iPhone carries the full gamut of UMTS frequencies, will it scorch by at these speeds worldwide or will it squeak by at the AT&T imposed speed limit?
Well for one thing AT&T is already planning it’s next moves – and plans to evolve into LTE (Long Term Evolution) eventually. I anticipate that as data demand picks up because of the iPhone, AT&T will start moving closer to the international speed limits.
Conventional thinking would have it that Apple is privy to AT&T’s plans – so I’d say they’ve planned that the iPhone will keep up with the mother network.
Now to the question on everyone’s minds – how will Globe’s HSDPA infrastructure handle this baby? Well you’ll have to ask Globe Visibility users how they’re coping. And I will leave it at that.