On which carriers can the iPhone 5 be used with LTE speeds, and why Europe was hung out to dry

On which carriers can the iPhone 5 be used with LTE speeds, and why Europe was hung out to dry
The initial LTE phones were using the bulky, battery-guzzling first generation radios, so Apple said to LTE "I'll pass, thanks." Yesterday, however, Cupertino joined the LTE handset gang with the iPhone 5 announcement, and it's been almost 24 hours without Samsung filing its first LTE patent lawsuit against it, but let's wait until the handset appears on Korean carriers. We kid, but despite the high expectations for LTE support in the new iPhone, such networks around the world are not what they are cracked up to be justyet. 

We won't bore you with much technical details behind Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, suffice it to say the current iteration allows for up to 100Mbps download speeds, improved reliability, and record upload speeds, not to mention their deployment and precious spectrum utilization for carriers is much less costly than other alternatives. Yet, the world is just now turning to LTE infrastructure, so Apple's iPhone 5 will launch with just around 20 carriers worldwide where it can take advantage of its multiband LTE radio.
 
Moreover, there will be three versions of the iPhone 5, depending on the radio configuration, and don't expect to take your unlocked unit, pop in a SIM card from another carrier that has LTE, and start downloading with blazing speeds. 

As you can see from the table above, Asia uses 1,800MHz and 2,600MHz in places like Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea. Japan and the US share the 700MHz or 2,100MHz frequency range, while in Europe they utilize 1,800MHz or 2,600MHz. 

Some carriers also run LTE on everything in-between, such as 800MHz and 850MHz, so if we don't get some overarching standard, the iPhone 5's LTE will be incompatible from one network to another, and you will have to make do with 3G or up to 42Mbps theoretical HSPA+ speeds at best.

Europe is the biggest loser here, as just 25% of LTE there operates on the iPhone 5's 1, 800MHz, with the rest deployed or about to be deployed at 800MHz and 2, 600MHz. Here is the list of European carriers which have 1, 800 support: 

Azerbaijan (Azercell)

Bulgaria (Vivacom, M-Tel)

Czech Republic (Telefonica O2)

Croatia (VIPNet, subsidiary of Telekom Austria)

Denmark (Telia)

Estonia (EMT)

Finland (TeliaSonera, Elisa, DNA)

Germany (Deutsche Telekom)

Hungary (T-Mobile/ Telenor)

Latvia (TeliaSonera/ LMT)

Lithuania (TeliaSonera/ Omnitel)

Poland (Aero2/ Mobyland)

Portugal (Optimus)

Slovenia (Si.mobil launched, Mobitel to launch in 2012)

United Kingdom (EE)

And those that are about to get it:



So is Apple playing favorites by excluding the world's largest operator by revenue, Vodafone, and other juggernauts like O2 and Telefonica from its LTE frequency compatibility list for now? Could it be it is bringing it back to some European carriers which threatened to cut subsidies when they heard Cupertino is toying with the idea for a programmable SIM inside the iPhone, so you can just change from one network settings to another with an app download?

Hardly the case, since those complaining carriers were indeed Vodafone, FT and Telefonica, whose LTE frequencies are now excluded in the iPhone 5, but Markus Goebel, a spokesman for O2 Germany in Munich, clarified: "Apple wants to maximize LTE reach for its iPhone and Deutsche Telekom got lucky that the 1,800 MHz frequency is also used by operators in Asia,” and that's that. Moreover, Vodafone Italy is in the final stages of LTE deployment on frequencies that will be compatible with the iPhone 5, as you can see in the quote above, so the band support is just a matter of practicality for Apple. 

Does that mean that DT customers, for example, can take their new unlocked iPhones and use them on LTE networks in Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore? Well, the frequency support is there, but that doesn't mean all the specific network settings will be, so we'll see what happens in terms of compatibility.

Putting all LTE frequencies in one device is counterproductive, to the extent that sometimes even motherboard changes have to be made to accommodate all the different bands and interference filters in a radio, so Apple decided to make devices tailored for specific markets, and with the iPhone 5 it seems those are predominantly North America and Asia, where LTE is a much more mature technology

All eyes are now on Qualcomm, which in the summer said a new radio with the MSM8960 design that supports 7 LTE frequencies will appear in phones by year-end, and that seems to be what we have in the iPhone 5, so we cross fingers it will manage to cram even more in a single chip next year. 

Furthermore, when more and more carriers finish their LTE deployment, it will be clearer what standard bands set has to be supported for a truly global LTE handset to appear. In the meantime, you get LTE on the iPhone 5 for certain with the 20 or so carriers listed above at launch, and that's that.

Related phones

iPhone 5
  • Display 4.0" 640 x 1136 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A6, Dual-core, 1300 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 1440 mAh(8h 3G talk time)

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14 Comments

1. iamcc

Posts: 1319; Member since: Oct 07, 2011

I love how Apple gets away with "Single chip, single radio*" *THREE DIFFERENT MODELS LOL!

2. StreetNerd

Posts: 870; Member since: Dec 08, 2010

Haha more apple :')

3. timtimity

Posts: 196; Member since: Aug 13, 2012

Due to the demand, I get why there's so many articles about the new iPhone, but it'll be nice for them to disappear for a while after the launch. I doubt it'll be long until rumours about the next iPhone appear though.

4. Angkor

Posts: 108; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

iSick of rotten Apple.

5. shadowcell

Posts: 300; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

iTired of lame iJokes. iWish you would grow up.

13. richardyarrell2011

Posts: 510; Member since: Mar 16, 2011

6. fistigons

Posts: 368; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

I'm confused on the whole freq thing. I'm getting stationed in England and I'm hoping to finally get a smarthphone. I haven't decided which type iOS or Android. Looks like I won't be getting the iPhone 5 because of the freq thing. Does the 4S transfer over there. Also I noticed that the UK SIII and US SIII have different hardware features. Will the US SIII be able to work in the UK and vise versa? Also is there a good cheap prepaid service over in the UK like straight talk? Any help would be appreciated.

14. Forsaken77

Posts: 553; Member since: Jun 09, 2011

As long as it's a phone from AT&T or Tmobile (GSM phones), they should work in Europe. You have to call the carrier and tell them you need to unlock your phone because you're going to Europe. A cell phone store employee told me that they shouldn't give you a hard time because of that. They don't like to let their phones be unlocked to use on other carriers. And don't let them talk you into getting an international plan either. It'll cost a fortune compared to what you'd pay over there. As long as you maintain any contract obligations from the carrier here, they should comply.

7. sorcio46

Posts: 435; Member since: Jul 27, 2011

"In Italy, 3 Italia, Vodafone and Telecom Italia all have plans for LTE1800. 3 Italia is deploying LTE1800 and from 2013 intends to offer multicarrier aggregation (an LTE-A feature) allowing LTE1800 and LTE2600 to be used together. " They are promoting their "worldwide ready 4G" when in my country maybe it will available with ONE carrier, maybe the next year. Someone will sue you for this as it was for the iPad3 !

8. Fallout09

Posts: 421; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

So much for having a single "World Capable" phone.......

12. gravityron

Posts: 46; Member since: Aug 07, 2012

Good point, but to be fair ... so much for ANYBODY that can have a single "World Capable" phone that is also LTE (at this present time).

9. redsox420

Posts: 90; Member since: Aug 27, 2012

11. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I'm not surprised. Apple people. :D

10. jenna_23

Posts: 145; Member since: Apr 02, 2010

what bout mexico? mexico is deploying 4G LTE on the 700mhz band this year same as at&t and verizon did here in the US on the 700 mhz band from what i heard. Will the iphone 5 support LTE in mexico??

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