One of the more overlooked additions to the upcoming iPhone is support for 900 MHz UMTS/HSDPA. While this may not resonate much here in the US (where the iPhone was basically designed to run on AT&T’s GSM network), a number folks overseas are elated.
Previous iPhones worked on three UMTS/HSDPA frequencies: 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz, which are the three main GSM 3G frequencies in the Western Hemisphere. 900 MHz UMTS/HSDPA is fairly widespread in the Eastern Hemisphere, including in New Zealand — the only wireless provider who directly sells the iPhone here in NZ, Vodafone, operates its extended 3G network at 900 MHz. With the iPhone 3G and 3GS, this meant that the iPhone was incapable of accessing Vodafone’s 3G network outside of downtown areas served by 2100 MHz networks, and it had to fall back on GPRS — which is so slow it’s nearly unusable.
iPhone 4 has a pentaband antenna/chipset (although the Apple specs page only lists four, the FCC lists five bands), meaning it works not only on the GSM frequencies the earlier iPhones did, but it also now supports 900 MHz UMTS/HSDPA. This increases the utility of the phone by a great deal for many international users, many of whom (including me) will now have access to extended 3G networks for the first time with iPhone 4. The antenna in iPhone 4 also means it’s now a true “world phone” — with access to GSM 3G over different frequencies, iPhone 4 should be able to connect to virtually any GSM 3G network in the world now (with the notable exception of T-Mobile in the US).