Thus, the answer to the question of which carrier is best for you shiny new iPhone is always the same: not you current carrier because
- The discounts and cash back offered to people who port their number to a new carrier offset the early termination fee for leaving.
- The new plans allow unlimited calling to all mobiles/land lines, so it no longer matters which carrier your friends and family use.
- All carriers now have similar coverage across multiple high and low frequency bands.
- All carriers now have similar issues with congestions and network slow downs.
SoftBank "All You Can America" PlanThe full details are still scarce, but unless there is something profound that is being held back, the new US roaming plan from Softbank looks pretty nice.
- Roaming on Sprint's CDMA-2000 (3G) and TD-LTE ("4G") network (the latter will come sometime this (fiscal?) year)
- ¥980 per month only during months the service is used (free during the initial promotion period).
- While in the US, voice, SMS, and data are available just as if you were in Japan
- Apparently unlimited calling in the US (according to tech blogs but there in no mention on SoftBank's press release)
- No need to apply for the service for people with data plans 5 GB and under
iPhone A1586 (iPhone 6) and A1524 (iPhone 6 Plus) frequency bands (SoftBank and Sprint bands)
CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz)
TD-SCDMA 1900 (F), 2000 (A)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29)
TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41)
Only for the iPhone 6, for nowTo do this requires the usage four separate technologies across multiple spectrum bands. SoftBank is a WCDMA carrier, but Sprint (like KDDI) is a CDMA-2000 carrier. While in Japan, the iPhone 6 would use SoftBank's WCDMA (1), FDD-LTE (2), and TD-LTE (3) networks. While in the US, it will use Sprint's CDMA-2000 (4) network, and (eventually), also their TD-LTE network. While some earlier iPhone models are technically compatible with Sprint, these will be excluded (presumably) because they are locked to the technology of the activation carrier. That is, an iPhone 5 activated on a WCDMA carrier can only ever be used with other WCDMA carriers. I guess that could be patched, but then that would remove the inducement to buy a new phone.
There are currently no other phones except for the iPhone 6 that support this combination of bands and technologies. SoftBank is considering releasing an Android phone that would also be compatible. An unlocked iPhone 6 will be ineligible for the all-you-can-america plan. It is also possible to expand usage to FDD-LTE bands 25 and 26 that Sprint is building out.
Coincidence or Planning?The TD-LTE network that will provide the 4G data connection in the US was originally built out by Clearwire. Sprint at one point owned just over a 50% stake in Clearwire before scaling back to just under 50% in around 2011. Then after SoftBank CEO Son took control of Sprint and injected lots of cash, Sprint bought all the remaining Clearwire shares, obtaining a lot of spectrum and, by chance, a TD-LTE network, using the exact same frequency band (TD-LTE band 41, 2500 MHz) as SoftBank.
Makes me wonder how much that network figured into the decision.