Cricket and Cspire Get iPhone 5

Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 5 will be carried by AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, launching it on Friday, September 21. Today, Cricket Communications (Leap Wireless) and C Spire Wireless also announced that they will begin offering the iPhone 5. It will be available on their networks one week later, on Friday, September 28.

C Spire was the first regional carrier to begin offering the iPhone last November. C Spire, formerly known as Cellular South, announced in November 2010 that it would launch an LTE network on its 700 MHz spectrum in the fourth quarter of 2011.

CSpire’s LTE service began this summer in the first of 31 markets. An additional six markets will be activated by the end of 2012. More expansion of 4G LTE services in Mississippi and other states is planned in 2013.

Cricket was the first prepaid carrier in the US to launch the iPhone, this June. Leap Wireless, the parent of the Cricket prepaid service, said began selling the phone in June, starting at $400 and $55 per month. Leap’s CEO said the phone would likely account for about 10 percent of the phones it sells over the next few years.

Cricket offers 3G CDMA and LTE over their PCS (1.9 GHz) and AWS bands. Leap (Cricket) picked up 100 licenses in the AWS auction at an aggregate cost of $984 million. Leap is paying Apple $900 million over three years for the iPhone. Leap will only sell the iPhone in markets where it uses PCS spectrum, since the device does not support its AWS spectrum, reports Fierce Wireless.

Unlike Verizon Wireless and AT&T, which can devote up to 20 MHz of spectrum to LTE, Cricket and MetroPCS use less than half that bandwidth and use LTE on the AWS band more to boost the capacity of each cell tower. The carrier’s average 4G speeds are more like a very good 3G network.

The iPhone is now available on 16 different U.S. carriers, but it is unclear when the iPhone 5 will come to the remaining carriers.

But the new iPhone doesn’t appear to support LTE in the 700 MHz “A” block. That means regional carriers may be supporting it in the PCS (1.9 GHz) and AWS (1.7/2.1 GHz) bands only.

Regional carriers that own large chunks of 700 MHz “A” block include:

  • C-Spire: 14 “A blocks” covering 4.7% of pops, and 10 “B blocks” covering 0.5% of pops
  • CenturyTel: 21 “A blocks” covering 3.8% of pops, and 48 “B blocks” covering 2.4% of pops
  • MetroPCS: 1 “A block” license covering 2.8% of pops
  • US Cellular (King Street Wireless): 25 “A blocks” covering 7.6% of pops, and 127 “B blocks” covering 6.6% of pops

Block “A” radios require a different power profile in order to avoid interference with the adjoining television spectrum. AT&T and Verizon refuse to provide 700MHz roaming on the “A” block. Apple did not mention support of the “A block” on their iPhone 5 announcement yesterday. That may mean the iPhone 5 on regional carriers won’t likely get the speeds similar to AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, which will offer LTE support thoughout their dedicated LTE frequencies.

AT&T will be a bidder for Verizon’s 700 MHz Lower B Block spectrum. Verizon agreed to sell its Lower A and B Block spectrum if the FCC approved its $3.9 billion deal (which it did). That will help consolidate both AT&T and Verizon as the dominate LTE providers in the 700 MHz band, each with about 20 MHz of spectrum. AT&T is also seeking to buy 51 Lower 700 MHz Band B Block licenses, four Lower 700 MHz Band C Block licenses and six AWS licenses from Century Link.

T-Mobile is the only one of the four major carriers not selling the iPhone 5. But an unlocked iPhone 4S can run HSPA+ over their refarmed 1900 network. Support for T-Mobile’s AWS band on the iPhone 5 would be a big plus — but whether that support will be forthcoming is not clear, since T-Mobile is not officially carrying the phone.

Apple will support HSPA+ and Dual-Carrier HSPA+ (DC-HSDPA), which T-Mobile is using on its HSPA+ 42 network. A Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean costs just $349 and can use T-Mobile’s cheaper plans with full access to HSPA+.

Related Dailywireless articles include; U.S. Cellular Goes LTE, U.S. Cellular: LTE Hotspot, C-Spire Goes LTE, iPhone Service on Virgin Mobile & Cricket, AT&T Adds LTE Cities, LTE iPhone: Game Changer?, Sprint: 100 LTE Cities by Year End, T-Mobile USA Upgrades to LTE,

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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