- Only the most expensive iPhone 12 model will reportedly support mmWave, the fastest form of 5G.
- This will diminish many US consumers' first 5G experience, and hurt Verizon, which made an early bet on mmWave in its network build-out.
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Within the 5G iPhone 12 lineup expected to be released in October, only the most expensive device will come equipped with a mmWave antenna, according to a Fast Company report based on anonymous industry sources.
Of the three types of 5G—low-band, mid-band, and mmWave—mmWave offers the fastest speeds but has the most limited range. By contrast, low-band 5G isn't much faster than 4G LTE in some cases, but it can cover a much larger area. And mid-band offers an attractive compromise between the other two, which is why the FCC was able to sell $4.5 billion worth of spectrum in the latest mid-band auction which concluded on August 25.
Here are two major impacts that limited mmWave support in the forthcoming iPhone lineup will have on the US market:
- The highest-end iPhone will be prohibitively expensive for most US consumers, limiting exposure to the fastest version of 5G. The most expensive iPhone model, expected to be called the iPhone 12 Pro Max, will likely start at $1,099, according to 9to5Mac. In response to the economic downturn, the average price of a smartphone sold in the US in Q2 2020 declined 10% year-over-year (YoY) to $503, the lowest level in more than two years, per Canalys. The price alone will keep the vast majority of US consumers away from the iPhone 12 Pro Max, not to mention the fact that its jumbo, 6.5-inch screen isn't for everyone. The iPhone 12 Pro Max will therefore have limited adoption, which means that many US consumers won't experience the full benefit of 5G, even if they splurge on one of the other 5G iPhone models.
- Verizon placed an early bet on mmWave in its initial rollout of 5G, which means it will be hurt by the lack of iPhone support for the standard. By focusing on mmWave deployments, Verizon managed to build the fastest 5G network of the major US wireless carriers, but at the cost of much more limited availability: Verizon's average 5G speed was more than 8x faster than the next leading US carrier, AT&T, but its customers were only able to receive a 5G signal 0.4% of the time, according to Opensignal data collected between March and June 2020. Given the iPhone 12's limited mmWave support, Verizon will have an even harder time capitalizing on its investment in the standard. This may spur the wireless carrier to accelerate its build-out of mid-band 5G. Verizon purchased the most mid-band spectrum at the FCC's aforementioned auction, accounting for 42% of total spending—T-Mobile spent only $5.6M since it already had substantial mid-band holdings, and AT&T did not participate at all.
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