FCC approves iPhone

Apple cleared to sell the phones to U.S. customers in late June

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Apple's iPhone, clearing the way for the combined phone and music player to hit the shelves.

Apple expects to begin selling the phones to U.S. customers in late June. Australia will follow next year.

Some of the FCC documents confirm a few features of the phone, including it will have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and will operate in the 1900MHz and 850MHz frequency bands.

That means that despite the phone's high price, users won't be able to roam with it into Europe, where operators use different frequencies. The phone uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) technology and the low-speed GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) wireless data standard. Apple has said the phone will ship initially only in the U.S. but many GSM phones today, even on the low end, are capable of operating in both Europe and the U.S.

Eager potential users who hoped for a faster data connection will be disappointed that the approval is only for GPRS, which delivers data rates comparable to dial-up. Many operators, including Apple partner AT&T Inc., have upgraded from GPRS to deliver download speeds of about 500K bits per second or more.

The FCC also released correspondence regarding Apple's requests that the agency keep some documents private. Apple asked the FCC not to release documents that include photos of the phone or the phone's user manual for 45 days after certification. Apple asked that other documents such as diagrams, a schematic of the radio, the radio bill of materials and operational descriptions remain private indefinitely. The FCC agreed to the requests.

The long, public FCC certification process may have been the reason Apple decided uncharacteristically to announce the iPhone in January, six months in advance. Rather than let rumors leak out based on FCC filings, Apple may have decided to tell the public about the iPhone itself.

AT&T, which will exclusively sell the phone initially, began last week giving permission to employees who are testing the phones to take the phones outside of their offices for the first time, according to an AT&T employee who asked not to be named. Features on the phones are being activated individually and so far testers can't play music, watch videos or use the visual voicemail features, the employee said.

Two versions of the iPhone will become available initially. The 4G-byte phone will cost US$499 with a two-year contract with AT&T, and the 8G-byte phone will sell for US$599.

The AppleInsider blog reported on the FCC approval and has also posted many of the documents for easy viewing on its site.

Apple requires approval from the FCC to sell devices like the iPhone that operate on the public airwaves.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service

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