Next-Generation iPhone U.S. Carrier Run-down

There has been a spate of rumors about Apple’s upcoming next-generation iPhone – possibly named the iPhone 5 – which is expected to hit store shelves within the next three months. In the United States, the device should arrive on three of the four major wireless carriers, but a range of smaller carriers could also pick up the device sometime after launch.

We could recall that AT&T, Sprint and Verizon released the iPhone 4S late last year, but regional carrier C-Spire likewise launched the smartphone shortly thereafter. These four firms are essentially guaranteed to get their own iPhone 5. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon all operate 4G LTE networks, allowing the upcoming smartphone to take advantage if Apple decides to include such connectivity.

Meanwhile, C-Spire is likely to retread its path last year with an iPhone release within weeks of the big players’. The carrier plans to roll out its 4G LTE network in several markets in Mississippi by September, which lines up with the expected launch window for the new iPhone. Interestingly, it didn’t announce any devices for the unveiling of its new network, raising expectations that this roll-out would be done just in time for the next-generation iPhone.

T-Mobile may be the number-four carrier in the U.S., but it isn’t expected to get the iPhone 5 anytime around its launch window. Instead, analysts believe that Apple’s new smartphone will be released on T-Mobile next year, when its 4G LTE network becomes fully operational.

Apple has also launched the iPhone 4S on a number of prepaid carriers in the U.S. While Cricket and Virgin Mobile may not get the smartphone on launch day, they could be able to release their own next-generation iPhones sometime next year. Both companies have 4G LTE networks in place, as does MetroPCS, which could support an unlocked 4G LTE iPhone 5.

The 4G LTE-equipped carrier U.S. Cellular could also choose to pick up the new iPhone, especially if the device is equipped with next-generation wireless connectivity. However, smaller regional carriers that lack LTE may be out of luck, at least until they get such a network up and running.