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4G LTE on the iPhone 5: a fiasco already?

There are three distinct iPhone 5 variants, all LTE-capable but aimed at different markets. These are the GSM Model A1428, the CDMA model A1429 and the GSM Model A1429. The first one only covers LTE bands 4 and 17 (for AT&T) while the CDMA 1429 covers bands 1, 3, 5, 13 and 25 and the GSM A1429 covers bands 1, 3 and 5.

GSM A1429 is the one that interests us because it is the iPhone 5 which will be sold in the UK. Band 1 is the 2100MHz one, Band 3 is 1800MHz and Band 5 is 850MHz. The latter is unusable in the UK because it doesn’t align with any free (or soon-to-be-freed) frequency portions.

Only the 2100MHz band will be available to O2 and Vodafone in the medium- to long-term. This is the band currently used by all 3G networks after the 2000 spectrum auction. Three is already set to get a chunk of the 1800MHz spectrum, as EE may have cynically chosen the smaller mobile phone operator over its bigger rivals.

So where does that leave us? The iPhone 5 launched in the UK (GSM A1429) may as well have been called the EE iPhone 5, since only customers on T-Mobile and Orange will be able to get immediate 4G goodness.

And to make things worse, the spectrum auction to be held next year will be for the 2600MHz spectrum, a band that the current GSM iPhone 5 doesn’t support – which means that there will almost certainly be another iPhone 5 iteration to cater for O2 and Vodafone in the UK (unless the iPhone 5S/iPhone 6 comes with a baseband modem capable of covering band 7 as well).

For those who either don't want 4G, don’t want to go on EE or simply don’t care about the iPhone 5, rest assured that: there will be a growing number of 4G handsets coming to the market; other networks will either improve their infrastructure or offer even better value for money; the iPhone 5 will work normally on 3G.

You can win an iPhone 5 in our iPhone 5 competition by answering a simple question about what generation the Phone 5 is. ITProPortal reported live on Apple’s announcement. Other than the iPhone 5, we saw new iPod devices but no cheaper version of the iPhone 4S, an iPad mini and potentially a 13in Macbook Pro with Retina Display.

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.