One aspect that's not been mentioned is that all those people who bought the iPhone 5, and wish to sell it in a years time to upgrade to the 5S or 6, will presumably find it harder to dispose of it. By next year all networks will have 4G up & running and it'll be the new norm, hence why go backwards. Hence if you buy a second hand iPhone 5 in a years time, you'll be restricted to only using it on EE or perhaps 3 in order to gain its full potential. Therefore the resale values should be hit as by that time the phones capability on non-1800Mhz bands will be more noticeable and there will be lots of confusion & miss-selling. With Vodafone & O2's weight, you'd expect Apple to release a tweaked iPhone 5S sooner than later, ie in April, prior to the major 4G roll-out. Lets hope so anyhow!
Beware new mobile contracts with slower internet
This guest post was written by Fion McCormack, an editor and reviewer of mobile phones
and technology for Gizmobird.co.uk. With special thanks to Vodafone for providing information and resources on LTE Mobile phone contracts.
With the recent introduction of 4G in the UK mobile web surfing has, for some, reached breakneck speeds, opening up endless new possibilities including online mobile gaming, VOIP and video calling and HD and 3D mobile TV streaming.
Realistically though the vast majority of us are still chugging along on good old “reliable” 3G - either because we don’t have the right handset or because our mobile network provider hasn’t made the 4G service available.
What you should be aware of though, is that if you have a 4G ready handset such as the iPhone 5 and you’re tied into a mobile phone contract you could be left behind on the slower 3G service for months or even years after 4G is available with your provider.
What is 4G?
4G, also referred to as LTE, for anyone who is hearing about is for the first time, is the successor to 3G which in turn took over from 2G. Essentially what we are talking about here are spectrums of radio waves, each spectrum consisting of a number of different frequencies.
The new 4G spectrum holds the promise of five times faster speeds than what we get now on 3G. Moreover, the way in which 4G is being implemented across the UK means better coverage all round.
Who's got it?
Newcomer EE is the only network actually providing a 4G service here in the UK. EE recently went live with 4G 6 months ahead of schedule leaving competing UK providers a little shaken.
EE stands for ‘Everything Everywhere’. Although they have recently rebranded as EE prior to their debut in the public realm, EE have actually been around as ‘Everything Everywhere’ since 2010. ‘Everything Everywhere’ is in fact an umbrella company consisting of Orange and T-Mobile.
Because they are all virtually the same company, EE’s fast 4G service is quite easy to avail of for new customers of T-Mobile and Orange while existing customers can switch over for a £99 one-off fee.
Under the conditions set by Ofcom, EE was required to sell part of its 4G service to another provider. Three snapped up this offer but will not get access to the spectrum until October 2013.
The situation with Vodafone and O2 is slightly more complicated. Although both networks are aiming to have their 4G service available in summer 2013, following the spectrum auction which is due to begin next month, there is a bit of a problem which affects iPhone 5 owners.
The iPhone 5 and 4G
Apple created the iPhone 5 as a 4G handset but the fact of the matter is that it only works on the 1800Mhz frequency used by EE and, in the future, Three. If you have an iPhone 5 from O2 or Vodafone then unfortunately you will never be able to utilize 4G on that handset in the UK.
The two remaining UK 4G frequencies (2600Mhz and 800Mhz) will be auctioned by Ofcom in the new year. We expect Apple to tweak the iPhone 5 (or at least a UK variant) to cater for these frequencies at some stage before Vodafone and O2 flick their 4G switches. But as things stand, the iPhone 5 does not work on either frequency.
The implication is that iPhone owners who are tied into a mobile phone contract with either Vodafone or O2 could be left behind on the inferior 3G spectrum until their contract runs its course. This is of particular concern with regard to anyone on a 2 year contract so think carefully if you are planning to take out a new iPhone 5 contract on O2 or Vodafone.
Many iPhone 5 owners in mid-contract will be up quite disgruntled when they realise this because Apple advertises their iPhone 5 as LTE (4G). In Apple’s defence they do only list LTE bands 1, 3 and 5 on their website. Band 3 happens to be EE’s 1800Mhz while bands 1 and 5 are not used in the UK.
Despite the fact that Vodafone never advertised the iPhone 5 as LTE the confusion is still
understandable from a customer’s point of view because many of us would have read the words LTE on Apple’s website without fully understanding the limitations before making the
Shockingly, O2’s website does advertise the iPhone 5 as LTE even though they do not provide an LTE service and never will provide an LTE service to suit the current iPhone 5. If you look closely you will see a tiny number 3 (like the mathematical symbol for cubed) next to the letters ‘LTE’. Perhaps this O2 attempting to tell us what band it works on, who knows!
What to do?
The 4G issue really only applies to iPhone 5’s on Vodafone and O2 because it’s only the iPhone 5 that has limited LTE compatibility. Many manufactures including Samsung, HTC, Huawei and Nokia have now started pushing out 4G phones - or 4G versions of previously non-4G phones - which are compatible with all three of the UK’s 4G frequencies.
This does not mean to say that all networks now sell the 4G variants instead of the 3G only variants. If you want to have 4G when it comes available to either O2 or Vodafone, but are taking out a new mobile phone contract beforehand, you need to make sure your handset has LTE on the right band for your network:
- Vodafone: Band 20 (800Mhz)
- O2: Band 7 (2600Mhz)
- EE, T-Mobile, Orange and Three: Band 3 (1800Mhz)
Due to the nature of the auction there is a slim possibility that O2 will get the 800Mhz and Vodafone the 2600Mhz instead of the other way around, although Vodafone has confirmed to us that it expects to get the 800Mhz frequency.
All is not lost for iPhone fans
Before you start thinking about abandoning ship, O2 and Vodafone customers have the opportunity to buy their way out of any existing iPhone 5 contracts at a generously reduced rate. It’s what both networks are calling their ‘4G promise’.
To avail yourself of the 4G promise you just need to hand in your old iPhone 5, pay the outstanding balance (on which you get a generous discount). You then need to sign a brand new contract on any 4G ready mobile phone of your choice.
Vodafone has gone one step further by extending its offer to include not only the iPhone 5 but also Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Galaxy note 2.
It would clearly be less costly if you could avoid having to buy your way out of an existing contract, even if it is at a reduced rate. So if you want to have 4G as soon as it becomes available on O2 or Vodafone, before signing on the dotted line for a new mobile phone contract with either network check the specs to ensure that your new handset is 4G ready and on the correct frequency.
If your preferred network doesn’t offer much in the way of 4G phones it’s a sure bet that they will do soon, so it might be a good idea to hold off for a while before upgrading. O2 and Vodafone both offer a selection of 30 day rolling SIM-only contracts which could form part of a very inexpensive solution to an otherwise expensive problem.
Another downside that has not been mentioned and that is the battery? As I understand it because of limited coverage the 4G phones searches for the faster 4G network by default, a default that can’t be disabled so has the effect of flatting the battery in a few hours.
As I am quite happy with 3G and have little interest in 4G I therefore have not done much homework on this one, I maybe wrong about this, but all theses doubts put me in a sound position in that 4G will remain a piped dream for me for a few years yet.
5G anyone, lets hope they get this one right but with the bumbling government’s plus their quango’s we have had the past decade I don’t hold much faith.