Brits to get iPhone 5 with 4G on EE's new network

The former Everything Everywhere gets a jump on rivals again by becoming the only UK operator to sell a 4G LTE version of Apple's newly launched iPhone.
Written by Karen Friar, Contributor

Apple's iPhone 5 is coming to the UK in a 4G version, carried exclusively by newly rebranded operator EE.

On Wednesday, the companies confirmed what Olaf Swantee, the chief executive of the operator formerly known as Everything Everywhere, hinted at during the launch of the UK's first 4G network

"The iPhone 5 is here! And we've got it," the operator said in a post to its EE Twitter account on Wednesday.

On stage at the iPhone 5 launch event in San Francisco, Apple's head of marketing Phil Schiller revealed that EE will be the only mobile operator in the UK to take advantage of the 4G connectivity introduced in the sixth edition of its flagship handset.

Credit: James Martin/CNET

In his presentation, Schiller highlighted the iPhone 5's "ultra-fast wireless technology", noting that its support for LTE, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA means it can tap into the speediest mobile networks in most corners of the globe.

Other new features in the iPhone 5 include a faster though smaller chip (the A6), a promised longer battery life with eight hours of talk time and a smaller Lightning dock connector. It comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB models.

The iPhone 5 will hit British shelves on 21 September, with pre-orders from Friday from partner operators, as well as in Apple's online and brick-and-mortar stores. On its website, Apple said the iPhone 5 will start at £529, which is likely to apply to the 16GB version, but no UK pricing was given for the full range. EE has not revealed how much it will cost, nor what the rate will be for its 4G service. In the US, it will cost $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB, and $399 for the 64GB on a carrier contract.

Providers without LTE can offer the iPhone 5 on 3.5G. In the UK, these are EE's other two networks — Orange and T-Mobile — as well as O2 and Three, according to Apple.

"EE will effectively have an initial monopoly on sales of the iPhone 5, since customers will only fully benefit from its capabilities if they take it though EE," Ovum regulatory telecoms analyst Matthew Howett pointed out in a statement.

"The question will of course be how many non-EE customers will make the switch," he added. "Many will already be in contract with their existing provider. However, with more than two years since the last major release (the iPhone 4), there could be a good number of people in the market for a new mobile provider."

It was only on Tuesday that EE announced it has started work on rolling out its LTE network, the first in the UK. It is likely to remain the sole provider at least until the end of the year, when other 4G frequencies are auctioned off, unless Three gets the go-ahead to use its own LTE spectrum.

The iPhone 5 news could spur EE's rivals into a legal protest against telecoms regulator Ofcom's decision to allow the operator to reuse 2G spectrum for 4G services, according to Howett.

"For Vodafone and O2, who have spoken out against EE's early 4G launch, this could well be what they were waiting for before launching a legal challenge to Ofcom's decision," he said. 

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