Why don't Apple's 5G iPhones support India's 5G networks?

From Sami Fathi's "Apple Reportedly Set to Roll Out iPhone 5G Support in India in December" posted Tuesday on MacRumors:

Apple will add support for 5G on compatible iPhones for Indian carriers through a software update as soon as December, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to ET News.

According to the publication, Apple and the Indian carrier Airtel will meet this week to discuss why Apple's iPhones are not compatible with India's 5G networks. Apple is reportedly already testing 5G support on iPhones in Mumbai and New Delhi, with an update officially adding support possibly being rolled out in December, the report said, citing a source.

A separate report from Reuters says the Indian government is placing pressure on Apple and Samsung to adopt 5G support for their latest smartphones. Apple first added support for 5G with the iPhone 12 in 2020, and two years later, Indian iPhone customers are still unable to use the newer and faster network. On Wednesday, the Indian government, alongside executives from Apple, Samsung, and leading carriers in the country, will meet "to prioritize" adding support for 5G on the latest smartphones.

My take: The subtleties of various radio frequencies and technical implementation details are beyond me. But there must be people at Apple, Qualcomm and the Indian carriers who could sort this out in less than two months.

9 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    This implies to me that India’s 5G networks are somehow different from the rest of the world’s. Fixing this with a software update implies protocol differences (rather than waveform differences, although a lot of radio waveform shaping is now done in software.) It could also be a certification problem, although if that were the case, I’d expect Apple to make that clear (and point the finger at the Indian government.)

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    October 11, 2022
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    India is a protectionist economy. An incompatible 5G protocol would insure that 5G handsets, consumed in India, are made in India, and not imported.

    Now that their protocol is established in country, it’s going to take some doing to make it compatible with the rest of the world. Apple producing iPhone 14 in India will help, but won’t offset the negative impact to native 5G production if they’re forced to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple (both of which have tiny market shares in India).

    I’d look for an India 5G iPhone (that will only work in India) before we see a world compatible 5G in India

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    October 11, 2022
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    If Modi can pull off the modernization of India in his lifetime he should a Nobel prize.

    1
    October 11, 2022
  4. Bart Yee said:
    Once the software fix is developed, the e-sim and SIM cards ID the specific carriers and their 5G protocols. Theoretically this would also allow any country’s phone to work with another country’s networks unless they had a completely proprietary systems. 4G fallback though is by now pretty well known and likely easily doable.

    This brings up the question of buying and / or importing smartphones from cheaper or available locations (recall the Indian man who went to Dubai to buy his iPhone 14 Pro Max) and bring them to your host country. Assuming the internal SIM tray or eSIM is compatible, the host country telecom system could be used. Of course, if the country really has protectionist proprietary systems that require country specific models only (Samsung/Android comes to mind), then that option is less likely.

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    October 11, 2022
    • David Emery said:
      I’m not sure I want SIM cards to come with ‘device drivers.’ Rather, I’d want the SIM to identify the network, and then have the phone contact a trusted source with the carrier to get the ‘device driver.’

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      October 11, 2022

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