Skip to main content

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.