Apple is not allowing mobile operators to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device unless they pass the Californian vendor’s own, independent tests for LTE network performance, Swisscom has confirmed.
Telecoms.com was told of Apple’s policy in October but, at the time, no operator had conceded publicly that it was true.
This week, however, a Swisscom spokesperson told Telecoms.com that: “Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network.”
Swisscom launched its LTE network this week although the iPhone 5 was not available as an LTE device at launch. “Apple will provide a software update in due course,” the firm said in a press release.
Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream told Telecoms.com that his firm had also learned of Apple’s network testing policy in October. Nordstrom said he was “shocked” when told about the policy, which restricts operators to offering the new device on 3G networks until Apple enables LTE functionality.
It proved, he said, “who is running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”
While extensive network testing of handsets has always been necessary, the focus has historically been on whether or not the handset functions on the network, with operators keen to protect their network assets and customer relationships against poor quality devices.
A handset vendor vetting networks on a technical basis before allowing its device to be used on them is a reversal of this situation, and one that Apple alone has the power to bring about.
Alcatel Lucent CTO Marcus Weldon told Telecoms.com that, although Apple had got “a bit big for its boots”, the policy proves the importance of the network in the mobile experience. This is a positive development he said, given that the network has a low perceived value among many end users. But Nordstrom suggested that putting such power in the hands of an organisation “that does not invest in networks” created a situation that is “unique”.
Telecoms.com requested comment from Apple but had received no reply at the time of publication.