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iPhone 12 deals highlight a renewed battle between wireless carriers



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5G, announced Tuesday on screen at Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater, is the biggest new feature in the iPhone 12 series.

Apple

This week’s arrival to iPhone 12s, which has 5G as its flagship lineup, spearheaded the US carriers that have quickly built these next-generation wireless networks. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg shared the stage with Apple CEO Tim Cook during the launch, while competitors T-Mobile and AT&T did not even warrant a mention. This rivalry will get hot as these carriers begin to roll out deals and proclaim their 5G coverage in a radical new wireless world.

Which could be good for you.

Apple is going all-in on 5G as a selling point for its four new iPhones, to the extent that super-cuts of all 5G mentions went viral on Twitter. Its push comes amid a major shift in the wireless world as the industry jumps into a new generation of wireless technology. When the iPhone 5, the first iPhone with 4G LTE, arrived in 2012, Verizon was dominates the early days of 4G LTE with AT&T a close No. 2. Sprint had disappeared long afterwards, and T-Mobile was practically left to die.

Now the industry has turned upside down. Verizon only turned on its nationwide low-band 5G network this week, putting it months behind its rivals. AT&T, which for years was Apple’s exclusive partner for the iPhone, saw its status overcome by Verizon on stage on Tuesday and is now the third largest wireless provider in the United States. Meanwhile, T-Mobile – which did not launch a 4G LTE network until 2013 – is actually the longest on 5G in terms of coverage with a nationwide network that now covers 260 million people and has valuable assets from the acquired Sprint to add more speed and capacity faster than its rivals.

The Freaky Friday change underscores the rapidly changing dynamics of the wireless industry, driven in part by a new generation of wireless technology, but also the competitive nature of the company. For consumers, it means potential confusion about what they get from 5G – as carriers and even Apple have struggled to explain the immediate benefits of the technology – but also the possibility of taking advantage of better deals from recently aggressive carriers.

Just be sure to read it in small print.

“It’s a win with strings attached,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. Consumers “save money, but they commit to sticking to the service provider, usually to the highest price plans, for as long as two and a half years,” he said.

However, the discounts also allow people to “get a more expensive phone that they could otherwise afford – and possibly more phone than they actually need.”

5G runs role reversal

As an underdog, T-Mobile is now positioned to take advantage of the so-called “super cycle”, where customers upgrade to a new iPhone in droves. These upgrades mean an opportunity for customers to change operator, and T-Mobile has a good history. It is the only airline to have a widespread 5G presence in the middleband thanks to Sprint. One of the three variants of 5G, mid-band, has noticeable speed improvements compared to low-band 5G while still working indoors and over large areas. And it is the type of 5G that is preferred by airlines around the world.

The millimeter wave, the fastest version of 5G and the one that has often been touted by Verizon, offers the most impressive speeds that can peak well above 1Gbps, with Verizon claiming this week that in some areas of the country it has reached download speeds of 4Gbps.

The problem with this signal is that it does not penetrate buildings and has the weakest area, which is often limited to only a handful of selected urban blocks as opposed to covering an entire area with coverage. Verizon’s investment in covering stadiums and city centers also comes at a time when millions of Americans are still at home and apart.

Neville Ray, T-Mobile’s technology president, said in an interview with CNET that his company’s mid-range network will reach 25 million people with plans to cover 100 million people by the end of the year and 200 million by the end of 2021.

As more spectrum is allocated to the service, he expects the average download speed on T-Mobile’s 5G midband network to be 400Mbps with peaks of 1Gbps by the end of the year, or almost eight times faster than the speeds on the company’s lowband 5G network, which had an average speed. at 49.2 Mbps, according to a June report from the wireless tracking company OpenSignal. It would also be almost two and a half times as fast as the average US internet speed as reported by Ookla in August.

“We think it’s a complete game changer with the iPhone and the other 5G smartphones,” Ray said.

Others seem to agree.

“T-Mobile is best placed because it has a legitimate 5G middleband network,” Greengart said. “Verizon pretends to be in the best position with 5G.”

He adds that Verizon’s marketing efforts on 5G got a big boost from being on stage at the iPhone event. Apple’s Cook referred to Verizon as one of its “closest partners” when he introduced Vestberg.

AT&T, Greengart said, is “realistic”, knowing that its current low-bandwidth network is not significantly faster than 4G LTE, and “like other carriers, it also has limited millimeter wave rollout.” This position is why the carrier is offering “the most aggressive promotions” for Apple’s latest iPhones.

New iPhone offers, new promotions

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Apple’s new iPhone 12 has received lots of promotional offers from operators.

Apple

These aggressive promotions are a boon to anyone who wants to upgrade. But even here there is a bit of a reversal.

T-Mobile has long offered the most enticing promotions for new devices, and its offerings for the iPhone 12 are not bad with offers to new and existing customers as well as $ 200 discounts for those who have been with T-Mobile or Sprint for at least five years. This year, however, AT&T has gone a step further offers free iPhone 12s to both new and existing users as long as they are dealing with a phone in good condition, switch to one of its latest unlimited plans and fund the unit on an AT&T installment plan that will keep them tied to the carrier for 30 months. (The unit is not completely free. It will essentially be discounted with monthly bill credits that AT&T gives back on your bill for the 30-month installment plan.)

AT & T’s offer is also more expansive when it comes to which devices are eligible for the full discount (anything that has a market value on its site of $ 95 or more) and which can get $ 350 off ( all with a trade value of at least $ 35). And it offers similarly heavy discounts to both new and existing customers for a range of popular 5G Android phones, including Samsung’s Galaxy S20 5G and Note 20 5G lines as well as the collapsible Z Flip 5G and Z Fold 2 5G.

“If you’re number three carrier, you do different things,” said Jennifer Van Buskirk, AT & T’s senior vice president of marketing. “So we’ll double our customers first, improve our customer experience and make sure we do everything we can to give our customers the best possible experience.”

Van Buskirk acknowledges that AT&T, like other carriers, has a “large iPhone base” and that the addition of 5G-compatible iPhones to the company’s portfolio is “a major turning point to accelerate 5G adoption nationwide for us.”

Verizon, despite its presence on the scene at the virtual iPhone announcement, has more subdued iPhone 12 offerings compared to AT & T’s free offers and T-Mobile’s broad replacement discounts. It offers a free iPhone to those who change provider, swap out “selected” phones and opt for one of the more expensive unlimited plans. It also offers a discounted iPhone 12 for as low as $ 15 per. Month over 24 months to existing users when shopping in a “select” device and having one of its recent premium unlimited plans.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon’s Consumer Group, said in an interview with CNET that he does not expect a major shifting event due to the new phones. “I’m actually not sure this is such an incredible shifting cause,” Dunne said. “The truth is, everyone has their reasons why they acquire a device and why they choose a carrier.”

Provided people switch airlines over a message in a keynote speech, he said, is “unfortunate for customers”, adding that in his eyes “customers come to the network and then they stay for the experience.”

Playing the long game

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Apple introduced a 5G-enabled iPhone on Tuesday.

Screenshot of Queenie Wong / CNET

Despite the importance of a 5G-compatible iPhone in getting more 5G devices in people’s hands, all three carriers are still aware that it’s very early in the 5G race in the US with major network improvements already underway for the next many years.

In addition to expanding and improving his low-band and mid-band networks, Ray said he expected more millimeter-wave news from T-Mobile “next year.” While technology was the key to his rivals’ early 5G network, Ray sees the taste as a “blossoming” to T-Mobile’s low-band and mid-band 5G network, offering extra speed and capacity to dense urban areas or stadiums.

In addition to announcing a low-band network, Verizon also announced on Tuesday that it has added 19 new cities, 19 new stadiums and six new airports to its millimeter-wave count. It has 5 millimeter wave 5G in parts of 55 cities with plans to reach 60 millimeter wave conditions before the end of the year.

AT&T says it covers approximately 224 million people with its nationwide low-band 5G network, up from 205 million earlier this summer, and now reaches parts of 36 cities with its millimeter wave network.

Both Verizon and AT&T are also expected to be active in an upcoming Federal Communications Commission auction for more mid-range later this year, where Verizon is already spent almost 1.9 billion. $ in a previous auction this summer. While this adds yet another wrinkle for consumers debating a new 5G phone this holiday season, some manufacturers are apparently already preparing these network upgrades.

According to Apple’s list of spectrum bands, the new iPhones include support for some of the recently sold bands, as well as frequencies that are expected to be auctioned later this year. This could in theory allow Apple devices to take advantage of these networks as they come online despite not being available today.

Verizon’s Dunne said support for the mid-range range it bought will eventually come to the new iPhones. “You can assume that all the best-in-class devices out there support the spectrum bands we have in implementation today and the ones we have acquired,” he said.

The support for so many bands, even those not in networking right now, is why Greengart said the iPhone 12 is “more future-proof than any other phone” and notes that Apple traditionally sells its phones in more year.

“In general, you should feel very comfortable buying an iPhone 12 today for any version of 5G that your carrier supports somewhere today, even if they don’t support it near you yet,” he said. “Because if it rolls out, it’s supported.”


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