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The iPhone 12 deals underscore the renewed battle between wireless operators



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5G, advertised on Tuesday at the Apple Steve Jobs Theater, is the biggest new feature in the iPhone 12 line.

Apple

The arrival of iPhone 12, which offers 5G in addition to the brand, has brought to the forefront American carriers, which are rapidly building these next-generation wireless networks. Verizon CEO Hans Westberg shared the scene with Apple CEO Tim Cook during the launch, while rivals T-Mobile and AT&T didn’t even justify the mention. This rivalry will intensify as these operators begin to make deals and advertise their 5G coverage in a radically new wireless world.

Which may be good for you.

Apple will move all-in to 5G as a selling point for its four new iPhones, to the point where super discounts on all 5G mentions have gone viral on Twitter. Its push comes amid a greater change in the wireless world as the industry moves into a new generation of wireless technology. When the iPhone 5, the first iPhone with 4G LTE, arrived in 2012, Verizon was dominant in the early days of 4G LTE with AT&T close to number 2. Sprint was far behind and T-Mobile was virtually left to die.

Now the industry has turned upside down. Verizon switched on its national low-bandwidth 5G network just this week, lagging behind it by months. AT&T, which has been Apple’s exclusive iPhone partner for years, saw its status usurped by Verizon on Tuesday and is now the third largest wireless provider in the United States. Meanwhile, T-Mobile – who does not launch 4G LTE network until 2013. – is in fact the furthest in 5G in terms of coverage with a national network that now covers 260 million people and has valuable assets from the acquired Sprint to add more speed and capacity faster than its competitors.

Freaky Friday’s change underscores the rapidly changing dynamics of the wireless industry, in part driven by a new generation of wireless technologies, but also the competitive nature of the business. For consumers, this means potential confusion about what they get from 5G – as operators and even Apple are trying to explain the immediate benefits of the technology – but also the opportunity to take advantage of better deals from new aggressive carriers.

Just make sure you read the fine print.

“It’s a win with attached strings,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. Consumers “save money, but commit to sticking to that service provider, usually at the highest price plans, for a period of 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 drives role reversal

A long-time outsider, T-Mobile is now positioned to take advantage of the so-called “super-cycle”, where customers will upgrade to a new iPhone in crowds. These improvements mean the opportunity for customers to change operators and T-Mobile has a good history. It is the only operator to have a widespread 5G presence thanks to Sprint. One of the three flavors of 5G, the mid-band has noticeable improvements in speed compared to low-frequency 5G, while still running indoors and over large areas. And this is the type of 5G preferred by carriers around the world.

The millimeter wave, the fastest version of 5G and the one often advertised by Verizon, offers the most impressive speeds that can exceed 1Gbps, with Verizon claiming this week that in some parts of the country it has reached download speeds from 4Gbps.

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

Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile, said in an interview with CNET that his company’s average band reaches 25 million people, with plans to cover 100 million people by the end of the year and 200 million people by the end of 2021.

As more service is allocated to the service, it expects the average download speed in T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network to be 400Mbps with peaks of 1Gbps by the end of the year or nearly eight times faster than the speeds in the company’s 5G network. had an average speed of 49.2 Mbps, according to a June report by wireless tracking firm OpenSignal. That, too, would be nearly two and a half times faster than the average home Internet speed in the United States, Ookla reported in August.

“We believe this is a complete device for changing the game with the iPhone and other 5G smartphones,” said Ray.

Others seem to agree.

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

He adds that Verizon’s marketing efforts for 5G have received a big boost since the iPhone event came on the scene. Apple’s Cook has named Verizon as one of its closest partners in Vestberg’s presentation.

AT&T, Gringart said, is “realistic” because it knows that the current low-bandwidth network is not significantly faster than 4G LTE and “like other carriers, it also has limited millimeter-wave deployment.” That’s why the operator offers the “most aggressive promotions” for Apple’s latest iPhones.

New deals for iPhone, new promotions

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Apple’s new iPhone 12 has received many promotional offers from carriers.

Apple

These aggressive promotions are a boon for anyone who wants to upgrade. But even here there is a slight twist.

T-Mobile has long offered the most enticing promotions for new devices, and its offerings for iPhone 12 are not bad deals for 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 one step further offers free iPhone 12s to both new and existing users as long as they trade a phone in good condition, switch to one of its latest unlimited plans and fund the device under an AT&T installment plan that will keep them tied to the operator for 30 months. (The device is not completely free. It will essentially be reduced by monthly credit bills, which AT&T will return to your account for the 30-month installment plan.)

AT&T’s offer is also more extensive when it comes to which devices qualify for a full discount (anything that has a site value of $ 95 or more) and that can save $ 350 of trading at at least $ 35). And it offers similar heavy discounts for both new and existing customers for a number of popular 5G Android phones, including Samsung’s Galaxy S20 5G and Note 20 5G lines, as well as the foldable Z Flip 5G and Z Fold 2 5G.

“If you’re carrier number three, you’re doing different things,” said Jennifer Van Buskirk, senior vice president of marketing for AT&T. “So we will double on putting customers first, improving our customer experience and ensuring that we do our best to provide the best possible experience for our customers.”

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

Verizon, despite its presence on the scene of the virtual release for the iPhone, has more muted deals for iPhone 12 compared to AT&T’s free offer and T-Mobile’s wide trading discounts. It offers a free iPhone for those who switch providers, trade in “selected” phones and choose one of the more expensive unlimited plans. It also offers the iPhone 12 at a discount of only $ 15 per month for 24 months to existing users when trading with a “selected” device and having one of their latest premium unlimited plans.

Ronan Dunn, CEO of Verizon’s Consumer Group, said in an interview with CNET that he did not expect a major switching event because of the new phones. “Actually, I’m not sure that’s such an amazing reason to switch,” Dunn said. “The truth is that everyone has their reasons for getting a device and why they choose media.”

Assuming that people will change operators during a message in a key note, he said it was “indecent for customers,” adding that in his eyes, “customers come for the network and then stay for the experience.”

Game of the long game

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On Tuesday, Apple unveiled an iPhone that supports 5G.

Screenshot by Queenie Wong / CNET

Despite the importance of the 5G-capable iPhone in getting more 5G devices in people’s hands, all three operators are still aware that it is too early in the 5G race in the US with major network improvements already underway over the next few years. .

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

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

AT&T says it covers about 224 million people with its national low-bandwidth 5G network, compared to 205 million earlier this summer, and now reaches parts of 36 cities with its network of millimeter waves.

Both Verizon and AT&T are also expected to be active in the upcoming Federal Communications Commission tender for more mid-range later this year, with Verizon already spending nearly $ 1.9 billion in an earlier auction this summer. While this adds another wrinkle to consumers considering a new 5G phone this holiday season, some manufacturers seem to be already preparing for these network upgrades.

According to Apple’s bandwidth list, the new iPhones include support for some of the most-sold bands, as well as the frequencies scheduled for auction later this year. This could, in theory, allow Apple devices to take advantage of these networks as they go online, even though they are not available today.

Verizon’s Dunne said support for the mid-range spectrum it purchased would eventually come in the new iPhones. “You can assume that all the best-in-class devices out there support the range of spectrum we have in use today and the ones we’ve acquired,” he said.

Support for so many bands, even those not currently used on networks, is why Greengart said the iPhone 12 is “more proof of the future than any other phone,” noting that Apple has traditionally sold its phones. for several years.

“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 it still doesn’t support it near you,” he said. “Because if it is released, it will be maintained.”


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