iPhone 5 will not work on any UK operators' 4G spectrum other than EE this year, and in September next year, Three
EE is set to have a monopoly on 4G services for iPhone 5 for one year, as the device is only able to read 4G spectrum in the 1800 Megahertz bandwidth.
The spectrum being auctioned off as part of the Digital Dividend at the end of this year by Ofcom to the UK's major mobile operators is in the 2.6Mhz and 800Mhz range, neither of which will work with Apple's iPhone 5 that is only able to read the 1800Mhz band.
At the end of this month EE is launching the UK's first wireless 4G service using its 1800Mhz spectrum, 15Mhz of which it has been made to sell to Three, which will being using that part of spectrum in September 2013.
Speaking to Smart Chimps, Nick James, CEO at UK Broadband that recently launched a fixed-wireless 4G offering for home use and next year will launch a wireless 4G service, all using its 3.5Mhz bandwidth, stated: 'Apple decided it wanted to get iPhone 5 out quickly. In the UK the device will only work on the 1800Mhz band, and EE is the only one with that spectrum at the moment although Three will be using it in September next year. Consumers are going to have to be aware of this issue and operators will have to think hard about what to do.'
The issue for 4G is the wide range of frequencies being awarded for use with the technology, as dictated by regulators globally, James pointed out. He commented: 'Every time spectrum is released for mobile services, the chip in mobile phones has to be changed so it can read the new spectrum, and the antennae set up in devices needs to be rearranged so devices can see the spectrum. The challenge for chip manufacturers and antennae manufacturers now is to create kit that can read all this 4G spectrum, some of which is new for mobile use including bands 42 and 43 which are our frequencies, 3.5 and 3.6.
'Handset manufacturers do want to be in every market, so they are going to be working hard on this now,' he added. 'The difficulty for consumers is that in the last few years, people have got used to not needing to worry about roaming and their phones working elsewhere. With 4G there is going to be a period where devices going onto the market won't work on every frequency, which will in the short term affect roaming. This means there will be a few years before users can buy a device without considering this.'
Smart Chimps thinks: Another flaw for iPhone 5 that may see UK-based Apple fans ending up even more miffed than after the ongoing Map App debacle, but perhaps we will see an iPhone 5 version coming out next year specifically for the other 4G on UK mobile operators' networks? Speaking of O2 and Vodafone, maybe this is set to be an interesting market-limiting, churn-reducing ploy, where they can request handsets from manufacturers that only work on their networks and not on EE's? An interesting fight to watch, me thinks…