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“Strange” Apple LTE policy omits Asian and Russian networks

Apple's iPhone has been dropped by MTS and Megafon in Russia

Apple will next week add another 36 networks to the selection of carriers that are permitted to offer the iPhone 5 with LTE support enabled. Tim Cook, CEO of the handset vendor, made the revelation as part of the company’s earnings call earlier this week. However, the expanded list does not extend to carriers in parts of Asia and Russia.

“Today we have 24 carriers around the world that provide LTE support for iPhone 5. Those are in countries like the US, Korea, the UK, Germany, Canada Japan, Australia and a few others,” Cook said.

“Next week,” he added, “we’re adding 36 more carriers for LTE support. These carriers will be in countries that we are not currently supporting LTE. So the LTE coverage now, as of next week is in Italy, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Philippines, also several Middle Eastern countries.”

Cook observed that these networks have a total of 300 million subscribers combined, making it clear that Apple was very aware of the potential for growth in these markets.

In November last year Telecoms.com exclusively revealed that Apple held the keys to enabling LTE support on the iPhone, by required that carriers pass the handset vendor’s own, independent tests for LTE performance. Backing this up, in December 2012, Tajikistani operator Babilon-Mobile told Telecoms.com that despite its best efforts to get in touch with Apple the iPhone 5 would not support LTE on its network.

Regardless of Apple’s announcement this situation has not changed for Babilon-Mobile. “Unfortunately we still didn’t get any response from Apple on our requests to enable LTE support,” Babilon-Mobile’s head of the automation Jafar Asimov told Telecoms.com.

It’s not just smaller carriers such as Babilon-Mobile that are still omitted, Asimov said – the larger Russian operators have also been left of the list of those invited to the LTE party.

“As far as I know, Apple is not speeding up cooperation on LTE with the largest Russian operators, such as MTS, Megafon and Beeline”, Asimov said. “It’s a strange policy. Instead of enabling LTE support for all carriers, which would bring benefit not only to operators, but also to Apple customers as well, Apple is limiting its customers [ability] to use the functionality of the phones fully. So, customers are paying for a feature that they can’t use.”

Telecoms.com has requested comment from Apple but had not received a response at time of publication.

Industry commentators such as Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream told Telecoms.com that he was “shocked” when told about the policy. It proved, he said, “who is running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”

The LTE Asia conference is taking place on the 18th-19th September 2013 at the Suntec, Singapore. Click here to download a brochure for the event.

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