Skip Navigation

Apple iPhone 5 will only operate on one 4G band in the UK
Thursday 13 September 2012 10:12:31 by Andrew Ferguson

The launch of the iPhone 5 while widely anticipated and many features were known in advance still had a few surprises up its sleeve. For the communications industry and consumers in the UK, it is that of the 4G LTE frequencies supported by the phone, only one is available for 4G (1800 MHz). The 4G frequency bands up for auction in the UK are 800 MHz and 2600 MHz, which suggests either Apple did no research into the LTE market, or it wants to create an eco-system forcing buyers onto one network.

Other 4G device manufacturers appear much better at producing phones that operate on the popular frequencies, e.g. the HTC One XL offers an exact match for what will be available for 4G LTE in the UK (800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz) and the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE is expected to offer 1800MHz and 2600MHz support. Of course as with all the 4G handsets there will be backwards support for 3G and HSPA+ built into them. The traveler may also find that even if they can find a good 4G roaming contract, that the choice of provider is very limited, as three versions of the iPhone 5 will exist.

Ofcom is now facing the possibility that providers may have less interest in the 2600MHz spectrum, the iPhone while not the only telephone on the market is one of the iconic models that providers will want to offer, and the additional downside that the 2600MHz band does not offer good indoor coverage will make it less attractive. The 800 MHz band while also suffering an iPhone 5 drought, with its better range and penetration into buildings should still prove popular as providers will want it to make meeting the 98% coverage obligation.

The recent peace talks over Everything Everywhere being allowed to launch 4G early, now look likely to result in action by other providers, the move by three to acquire some 1800MHz, will make the chance of further legal action higher.


Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
The iPhone 5 supports 4G LTE on 850Mhz which is part of the spectrum that Ofcom will flog in 2013.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
I know it supports 850Mhz, so is that the same band as 800 MHz. clearly talks of 800 Mhz which is listed by many device makers.

850 seems an Australian band
Posted by otester over 5 years ago
Not like it really matters, at the moment 4G is relegated to replacing HSPA+ in urban areas where it is struggling to cope so peak time speeds will be like HSPA+ in suburban/rural areas.

Maybe in a year or two it'll be worth getting and by then I'd expect there will be full support from mobiles.
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
800Mhz band goes from 800Mhz to 899.999Mhz so 850Mhz is right in the middle.

O2 and Vodafone for example use the 900Mhz band but they actually start at 880Mhz:

O2 (Telefónica UK Ltd)
885.1-890.1 MHz
894.7 - 902.3 MHz
910.9 -914.9 MHz
930.1-935.1 MHz
939.7 - 947.3 MHz
955.9 -959.9 MHz

Vodafone Limited
880.1-885.1 MHz
890.1-894.7 MHz
902.3-909.9 MHz
925.1-930.1 MHz
935.1-939.7 MHz
947.3-954.9 MHz
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
If you want a breakdown by exact frequency for the countries in the EU here is the complete list by the CEPT:
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
So what is not clear from iPhone 5 spec then is what actual frequencies the 850Mhz part supports?

Apples spec sheets stats only the operator using 1800 MHz.

Seems odd for Apple to list 850MHz, when others list 800 MHz. If they are the same thing.

Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago

Shows 800MHz as covering 790 to 862 Mhz, so key is how wide the iPhone 5 support is and why not follow usual conventions.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
A little more looking suggests Band 5 850 MHz does not match the Ofcom 800MHz band

Band 5 lower download 852MHz, and upper 869 MHz, so just 15 MHz, and down to 10 MHz of the Ofcom spectrum.

In short needs more detail from Apple to confirm whether can be made to work on UK 800MHz 4G band.

So happy to leave article as just 1800 MHz.
Posted by jchamier over 5 years ago
Apple may have decided to report which countries and which networks the iPhone 5 will work on - rather than reporting which frequencies it supports.

It might support more frequencies as more countries get added to the table as releases progress.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
They might, but full list from phone is as follows:

LTE Bands 1,3,4,5,13, 17 and 25 when combining 3 models

Band 5 I detailed above.
Posted by PJWilkin over 5 years ago
The iPhone 5 LTE support seems to have been Apples biggest f*ck-up in years
They don't support the bands Europe will use
I wonder who in Apple didn't do their homework

O2 must be mighty p*ssed at the lack of support for the LTE they will get, I know they are going to loose customers because of this.

I do hope O2 and Vodafone challenge EE's use of the 1800 band as Ofcom seems to have handed EE a big advantage, which is clearly unfair

Ofcom in my opinion (because of this and other broadband decisions) is clearly not fit for purpose
Posted by PJWilkin over 5 years ago
Apples own slides showed EE and O2 for the UK as being supported
Yet we find out the phone might only work on EE's LTE

I wonder how much the limiting of bands is in Hardware (ie chip or antennae) or Software, if the latter perhaps they can unlock the correct bands for O2/Vodafone once they get decided (post auction)

I however suspect apple will say wait for the 5S
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
Hi Andrew it looks like the UK LTE will use Band 20.

Uplink 832MHz - 862MHz
Downlink 791MHz - 821MHz

This is not compatible with the iPhone 5 which works on Band 5.
Posted by undecidedadrian over 5 years ago
I suppose Apple thought that the non-US market wasn't important enough yet to support it.

Knowing Apple there will be another iPhone in a years time to launch LTE in Europe.
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
4G LTE has been available in Europe for over 2 years! Apple still have a lot of catching up to do along with the UK.
Posted by Kr1s69 over 5 years ago
We're complaining Apple won't support LTE bands we PLAN on using, we've not even sold the spectrum as yet. By all means complain if we have a network and they release a phone that doesn't work on it, but this seems ridiculous.

The next iPhone will be available before there's any 4G network in the 800 or 2600 Mhz range.
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
Sweden have been using Band 20 since December 2009 and Germany since November 2010. So yes Apple have missed the boat.
Posted by tthom over 5 years ago
This is a long shot but has it got anything to do with the patents samsung hold for LTE?

I mean do samsung LTE patents cover the popular frequencies

Wild guess?
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
Apple are not ones to shy away from courtroom battles. I suspect it has more to do with getting people to upgrade on a regular basis. Im sure some of the missing bands will appear in the next iPhone.

Yes Samsung and HTC own some LTE patents but Apple have bought some too. So expect more courtroom drama in the coming month.....
Posted by Bolverk over 5 years ago
Apple's latest ploy to separate the fashion victims of the country from their hard earned cash.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Presumably the relaxation of rules will allow LTE on 900 MHz by Vodafone and O2 if it makes sense for them and the kit is available.
Posted by Norest over 5 years ago
900Mhz is used by 2G and 3G at the moment and there is not enough bandwidth for LTE as well.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
They said there was no room for 3G on 900 as it was all needed for 2G, turned out not to be the case.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
And why squeeze 4G onto 900 MHz when its not widely supported?
Posted by bosie over 5 years ago
iPhone 5 also supports DC-HSDPA 42Mbps but I only saw EE and O2 listed on the slides.
Posted by leexgx over 5 years ago
850 band is normally an USA system we use 800 or 900 band, it means 850 is no in the UK, 2100 maybe

but I hate to be the network on 2600 every mast have to be 1000-500m from each other to be usefull indoors (on supported phones)
guess apple will have orange for the next year until they maybe bring one out that support the full range LTE in the UK
Posted by PJWilkin over 5 years ago
The choice of the 850MHz band seems silly, it would have helped if Apple had chosen the correct 800MHz band, it would have made them more compatible with whats happening in Europe
(I Suspect this is a massive blunder by Apple)

However, LTE deployment is limited. Everything Everywhere still have yet to open their service, and I suspect it'll be a while before LTE works outside select city centres
Posted by PJWilkin over 5 years ago
Given the paltry data caps most providers give, LTE is going to be of limited use

I suspect we'll be in the £40+/month territory before we get decent data allocations.

As it stands, 3G is "Good Enough" and "Cheap Enough" for the moment
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
While 850MHz seems silly, it is a big one for the Asian market.

Posted by PJWilkin over 5 years ago
Maybe, but the CDMA version seems to do 5 LTE Bands, you'd have expected Apple to equip the Global GSM with 5 Bands covering Europe and Asia

Very silly on Apple's part not to
Posted by Colin_London over 5 years ago
The 850Mhz band (LTE Band 5) is different to the 800MHz band (LTE Band 20) to be used in the EU for digital dividend LTE. The downlink frequencies are completely different.

Band 5 D/L: 869 MHz to 894 MHz
Band 20 D/L: 791 MHz to 821 MHz

Thus the only iPhone 5 LTE band that will be of any use in the UK will be Band 3, the 'DCS 1800' band that EE is refarming from GSM to LTE.

O2 and Vodafone will be spitting blood about this; it means they will be at least a whole year behind EE (and Three) in getting an LTE iPhone, and the iPhone 5 will never work on their LTE networks.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago

Thanks, I had some checking, but did dig further after some questioned my article, and nice to see a few others coming to the same conclusion.
Posted by its_orly over 5 years ago
I recently moved to Canada and have an LTE device. I live in a rural area and the speeds are fantastic (up to 40Mbit/s). If there is investment LTE can definitely provide a far superior experience to HSPA+. I find HSPA+ will usually run about 10-15Mbit when I move out of an LTE area.

If the iPhone doesn't work over there...screw the iPhone. There are better devices anyway.
Posted by ahockings over 5 years ago
Why all the talk of 800/850? iPhone does 1800Mhz you know. EEs LTE network will cover 70% this time next year and 98% by 2014. Why on earth would you be worried about O2 who's 3G network still only covers around 85-90% now! By this time next year EEs network will have every single one of their 18000 odd cells upgraded to EDGE and HSPA+. DC-HSDPA currently rolling out too.
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.