The UK’s wait for 4G networks has dragged on for some time. While more than half of the countries on the G20 list of the world’s biggest economies have been enjoying high-speed mobile connectivity, Britain has dawdled, waiting for Ofcom to give the go-ahead for a rollout of the technology.
That's why we breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday, when the telecoms regulator granted Everything Everywhere permission for an 11 September launch of 4G services, finally ending the nation’s wait for super-fast mobile data. The decision to grant EE a significant head-start over rival operators – which will have to wait until next year for their 4G upgrades – dictated most of the announcement’s fallout, but the implication of that launch date certainly should not be overlooked. In fact, it provides a potentially significant subplot.
11 September comes just one day before the widely expected unveiling of the next-generation iPhone. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the new iPhone is reported to come fully equipped with 4G LTE connectivity. It therefore seems sensible to suggest T-Mobile and Orange, the carriers under the Everything Everywhere banner, will be capitalising on their exclusive compatibility with the new iPhone and partnering with Apple to sell the device.
Apple, meanwhile, will want a stage befitting of its new product, with infrastructure able to handle the phone’s capabilities. Ensuring its upgraded connectivity (one of the headline specs) supports the 4G-ready 1800MHz spectrum owned by Everything Everywhere therefore makes sense. Moreover, 4G deals on the iPhone would certainly add some extra spice to its UK release, ramping up all the all-important consumer fervour.
Industry whispers that Everything Everywhere has been keen to get its 4G service up-and-running in time for the iPhone launch suggest this may not just be conjecture, and reports from elsewhere also back up the rumours. Pocket Lint cites “multiple sources” as saying the new iPhone will indeed support EE’s re-farmed band. The significance of Ofcom’s decision to license this 1800MHz spectrum ahead of 800MHz and 2600MHz is also highlighted, as this is the same bandwidth used by a number of operators in Australia and mainland Europe, thus giving Apple a larger sales market.
Yes, we may all be overexcitedly jumping to conclusions here, but a fair amount of evidence stacks up. Whatever does unfold, some degree of 4G coordination between Apple UK and Everything Everywhere could see both parties steal a big march on their rivals.