More 4G on the way to UK, but your iPhone 5 still won't work on it

More 4G on the way to UK, but your iPhone 5 still won't work on it

Summary: The UK's 4G spectrum situation is improving but iPhone 5 owners keen to take advantage of the higher speeds the networks offer will be disappointed.


The UK's 4G spectrum auction may now be over, paving the way for widespread, truly competitive 4G LTE services in the UK market, but your iPhone 5 still won't work on any of the spectrum that has been auctioned.

Since its launch last year, the iPhone 5's 4G functionality has only worked on EE's 1800MHz network in the UK. However, the spectrum winners from Wednesday's auction announcement won chunks of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, which provide a good mix of capacity and reach but leave rivals unable to offer a 4G service for iPhone 5 customers.

All operators, aside from O2, will be operating a 4G network using a combination of these bands. O2 will only be operating on 800MHz (which provides better coverage than 2.6GHz); it has a larger chunk of 800MHz spectrum than its rivals because it has commited to providing indoor coverage for 98 percent of the UK by 2017.

The only other network that will theoretically be able to use the current version of the iPhone 5 is Three. It has a small amount of spectrum in the 1800MHz band, which EE was forced to divest in 2012 in order for Ofcom to approve the refarming of its 2G spectrum for 4G services.

Other devices will, of course, work on the spectrum made available by the auction, but will need to be compatible with operating on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands for LTE. Some handsets, such as the Nokia Lumia 920, are already set up to work across all three bands used in the UK, including the 1800MHz network EE runs currently. 

Apple had not responded to a request for comment on whether it will be offering UK networks an iPhone 5 device that works on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies at time of writing.

Topics: 4G, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Networking, Smartphones, United Kingdom

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • It's the gamble of being the first in...

    Lte/4g is very niche in he uk. massive data costs of restrictive plans vs unlimited from most networks on 3G, plus the fact that real wold tests I've done between EE's LTE and 3's HSPDA+ show speeds that are typically 10-20% faster, some times just 2 or so meg. To be fair I did once get 26meg on my ee ipad whilst my 3 phone got only 15... So that it nearly twice the speed. But I did only get it once out of tens of full signal tests. Both systems grind to a catastrophic halt travelling home in the rush hour. Weirdly O2's much much slower (usually peaking at 6/7 meg) connection seems largely unaffected by the rush hour, although I suspect with such poor data plans available there aren't many other O2 data users on the train to surge the mast.

    As for ee and LTE, this is because it's new.. LTE requires many many more broadcast points due to it's lack of range which take time, so sometimes you get poor speeds; I live in a pretty poor area and my LTE at home indoors is about 30% faster on average than outside my companies lavash offices.... Not as many LTE subscribers in hackney!

    As for the iPhone 5 and other affected handsets it's the gamble of being the first in. To be honest we've known since release that it wasn't going to work off of ee as it's other bands are already in use.

    It'll be interesting to see how well the 2.6 deployment goes...Really not very excited about the 800 spectrum; it's going to mess up freeview sets and it's well below the ideal frequency for LTE... More of a "well this is the range we can flog" as opposed to "this will be good for it" but then our sky's are pretty crammed up there!
  • Lumia 920

    I own a Lumia 920 and will check this out!
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