Arguably Apple is not an innovative company. In the R&D of Research and Development, it’s all development and no research. The original iPhone was a 2G phone launched into a 3G world. Its behaviour on mobile networks was so atrocious there were crisis meetings among the infrastructure vendors on how to cope with the mess it made of signalling. It’s impressive that Apple is making its own advanced chipsets, and it’s the only phone manufacturer with its own operating system, but there isn’t much in the iPhone 12 which hasn’t been seen before.
And yet the new iPhone 12 is perhaps the most important phone the 5G world has seen. While Samsung, OnePlus, Oppo and others have had generations of 5G phones they are devices people have bought because they are 5G. The iPhone 12 will sell because it’s the new iPhone. This will get 5G into the hands of people who don’t think about the technology.
When the announcement was made I crawled through looking for one thing in particular: Band 77. The iPhone 12 does support it, the 3.8GHz to 4.2GHz frequency, and for many in the 5G Trials and Testbeds programme this is a game changer. It means that a project, which is building a small network, such as the Rural Connected Communities (RCC) 5G Connected Forrest project in Nottingham or the 5G Create Health and social care project in Liverpool can easily get spectrum and deliver ultrafast Internet speeds to the devices people have. Ofcom led the charge on community spectrum specifically in the hope that manufacturers would embrace it. This was a big ask, traditionally handset manufacturers kowtow to the will of the big operators who buy 80% of phones made. Supporting community spectrum is not on any big operators lists of requirements. Indeed, you might say it is counter to their business interests.
Quite a lot of devices have spec sheets which say that they support Band 77, but there has been chatter within the 5GTT community that there is a discrepancy between what the spec sheet says and what the devices do. Two manufacturers stand out as being reliable in their description of Band 77: Google and Apple. Google recently announced the Pixel 5 with Band 77 support and now we have the iPhone. This is very good for the small communities who want Band 77 5G.
So Apple will not only get 5G phones into the hands of consumers it will do so with products that ideally suit the 5GTT community. Often development is more important than innovation.
Written by Simon Rockman of Telet Research. Telet Reserach are leading the Multi Operator Neutral Host (MONeH) 5G Project.
***Image source: Promotional image of the new iPhone 12 Photograph: Apple Inc