Apple iPhone 5 will only operate on one 4G band in the UK
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.