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Apple's Iphone 5 won't support O2's and Vodafone's future 4G networks

Updated O2 confirms, says it will let customers upgrade early to a 4G phone
Thu Sep 13 2012, 13:23
Apple iPhone 5 front featuring 4G and 4in screen

FRUIT THEMED Apple's Iphone 5 won't be able to support O2's and Vodafone's future 4G networks, which are expected to arrive at some point next year.

The 4G auctions in the UK set to take place in 2013 are for the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, neither of which are supported by the Iphone 5.

This means that should O2 and Vodafone win spectrum in the auctions, as is widely expected to happen, the Iphone 5 won't work on the advanced networks, leaving millions of UK consumers cut off from the next wave of the mobile internet.

This is another major blow for the mobile operators as their main rival, EE, which operates the Orange and T-Mobile brands is going to be able to offer the Iphone 5 on 4G LTE right from launch.

This is because its 4G LTE services run in the 1800MHz band supported by the Iphone 5, after Ofcom gave approval to let it use this network for 4G services.

Ovum telecoms analyst Matthew Howett told The INQUIRER that the operators do have some possible ways of working around this issue but it is not straightforward.

"The only real way Vodafone and O2 can utilise this Iphone 5's 4G capability would be to refarm spectrum at 2.1GHz, the current 3G band. However this would require approval from Ofcom and assumes they have the capacity to do so, certainly not guaranteed," he explained.

Howett added that it might not be until Apple brings out its next Iphone device that the mobile operators O2 and Vodafone will finally be able to offer 4G on the firm's devices.

"Perhaps Apple will in 12-18 months' time come out with a revision to the Iphone 5 which does support 800Mhz and 2.6GHz, by which time there will be more 4G networks using these bands up and running in Europe," he said.

He noted too that some other flagship devices, such as the Lumia 920, do support 4G on both the 800MHz and 2.6Ghz spectrum holdings, which could attract some users desperate for faster mobile broadband services.

Vodafone was unavailable for comment.

Update
O2 has commented on the news, admitting that the Iphone 5 won't support its upcoming 4G network. However, it's promising that it will let Iphone 5 buyers upgrade mid-contract if they fancy switching to a 4G phone, which is not great news for Apple.

An O2 spokesperson said, "Iphone 5 currently only supports 4G on the 1800Mhz spectrum. However, by the time 4G becomes an all-operator service and is available to everyone in the UK, we would expect a whole range of new devices to have launched that support all UK 4G network frequencies.

"We will also be selling devices at the end of this year that will be compatible with all 4G frequencies so they will work on our network from launch. However, our new 4G Handset Promise means customers who purchase an Iphone 5 then want to change to a 4G phone next year can upgrade mid-way through their contract." µ

 

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