The AT&T version of the Apple iPhone 5 has more to it than meets the eye. There are actually two more 4G frequency bands which are supported in the North American GSM iPhone than what Apple revealed in their specs reports GigaOM.
AT&T iPhone 5 has extra 4G frequency bands
The bands are PCS and cellular which are used by operators on the 2G and 3G networks. This comes as a surprise due to the fact that apart from Sprint, no other carrier launches LTE on these bands. Sprint has a different variant of the iPhone 5 than AT&T, so there was no reason for Apple to mention these bands when they released the specs as there is no network that the new iPhone 5 could connect to using these bands.
So why would Apple have chosen to include the bands? It could be due to the fact that AT&T asked Apple to do so. The carrier is launching LTE on the 700 MHz network and they have also said that they would launch LTE on the AWS frequencies. However their spectrum holdings in AWS are dwindling away as they have just given T-Mobile some of them.
This has left AT&T looking round for new bands on which to deploy LTE. They have just asked the FCC for permission to turn the 2.3GHz into an LTE private band. However the leak of the new frequencies could mean this possibility for the iPhone 5 at least. Ma Bell could be looking to eat up their 2G and 3G networks to give them more capacity for LTE.
On average AT&T have 55MHz of cellular spectrum and PCS nationwide and much of this has already been accounted for. In certain parts of the US they have started to close down some parts of the GSM network but are not replacing it with LTE but instead new HSPA networks. However the iPhone 5 is now compatible with LTE and so the burden will move from 3G to 4G. Once traffic has made the journey they could start to close down the capacity of 2G or 3G and when it clears to 10 MHz it is possible they could build an LTE network.
It is thought that all carriers will eventually close down their 2G and 3G spectrums; however this may take many years. So again why does the new iPhone 5 have support for the frequencies today, when more phones will be released before the changes happen?
It could be that the pull of AT&T with Apple is so strong that they convinced Apple to make the new iPhone 5 work on networks that could be years away. Or it could be that AT&T have plans for a massive reconfiguration of their networks within less than one year hints GigaOM.