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How Apple Devices and Dual-SIM Work on Celona CBRS

Will Apple iPhones & iPads work with Celona? You bet. Here's how they can be onboarded to a Celona private LTE/5G wireless network.


As one of the great, forward-thinking technology companies in modern history, Apple is considered a trailblazer when it comes to rolling out new mobile device features and functionality. From Celona’s perspective, two relatively new Apple iPhone/iPad features are making waves in the private LTE/5G. One is the ability to connect devices to cellular wireless running in private spectrum options, such as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band 48 spectrum. The other is the inclusion of dual SIM support for simultaneously connecting Apple mobile devices to multiple cellular networks. Let’s take a closer look at these two features and why they help pave the way for seamless  cellular network adoption across the enterprise, at any location.

Apple’s adoption of CBRS spectrum compatibility

Unbeknownst to many, newer-generation Apple iPhones and cellular-capable iPads are already compatible with spectrum options for private 5G/LTE wireless connectivity straight out of the box. Considering that Apple's share of the US smartphone market sits at around 47% and the iPad constituting 65% of the US tablet market, one can begin to realize the potential that Apple-centric businesses have when it comes to enabling private 5G/LTE connectivity for their mission critical applications.

Apple first introduced compatibility with CBRS wireless networks with the introduction of the iPhone 11 that was launched in the Fall of 2019. In early 2020, the Apple iPad Pro 4th generation hardware with cellular capability also launched with full CBRS spectrum support. Since that time, all cellular-capable Apple iPhones and iPads can connect natively and seamlessly to a Celona LTE/5G network.

Roaming between public cellular and private cellular by Celona

When it comes to mobile devices such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, there will likely be a need for these devices to easily switch from a Celona private radio access network (RAN) to a public carrier like AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon. Fortunately, Apple smartphones and tablets have also recently started offering dual SIM support. SIM stands for Subscriber Identity Module. Its primary purpose is to store information used to identify and authenticate a device so that it can access and connect to a cellular wireless.

Traditionally, SIM cards have taken the form of small plastic chips that are inserted into mobile devices. Thus, when the device needs to move to a different carrier, the user swaps out one carrier’s SIM card with another. While mobile devices with single SIM card slots work for many consumers, businesses that wish to deploy private LTE/5G networks run into the issue where a device must seamlessly roam between private and public carrier networks depending on the user/device location and the use case when connected to the Celona private mobile network.

Some mobile device manufacturers sell smartphones with the ability to install dual physical SIM cards. This lets the device connect to two cellular networks at the same time. However, Apple chose a different dual SIM route for devices sold in the US.

Instead of integrating dual physical SIM card slots on new iPhones and iPads, Apple instead chose to stick with a single nano SIM slot with the ability to add a second cellular carrier through a software feature known as embedded SIM (eSIM). This functionality was built directly into Apple’s iOS software starting in version 12.1 and higher (version 14.5 and higher for 5G dual SIM support). An eSIM allows for a user to set up the same identification and authentication data directly onto the phone/tablets operating system - after a simple download from the policy/device management system.

Celona's integrated solution supports both physical SIM and eSIM connectivity options for Apple devices, and allows for Apple devices to simply scan a QR code to download a private mobile network eSIM identity. It all takes a min or two to enable device level authorization and secure always on centralized encryption for such devices - fastest route to highest level of security for enterprise wireless.

The three major LTE and 5G carriers in the US alsofully support the use of eSIMs for unlocked devices. What this means is that Apple iPhones and iPads can use an eSIM to activate public cellular access – freeing the physical nano slot for a second carrier. And vice versa.  To activate the Apple iPhone/iPad for operation on a Celona RAN with a physical SIM card, simply insert the Celona SIM into the unoccupied card slot and within seconds, the Apple iPhone / iPad would connect to Celona private LTE/5G. With one SIM assignment with an MNO and the other with a Celona physical SIM or eSIM, Apple iPhone / iPad can now seamlessly roam between public and private cellular networks in dual SIM mode.

Here are the simple configuration steps to onboard an Apple iPhone or iPad onto a Celona network. And here are few additional details on dual SIM operation.

Celona Access Points for CBRS Networks
Physical SIM cards by Celona

Yes, it really is that easy to connect newer Apple iPhones and iPads to a Celona private LTE or 5G network while also having simultaneous connectivity and access to a public cellular carrier. This combination of native connectivity and automated roaming within Apple devices can be thought of as one less architectural hurdle to overcome when deploying Celona's private LTE / 5G wireless networks within your organization.

To keep in touch with the rest of our community of customers, ecosystem and technology partners, join us at the Frequency Community.

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