O2 UK yet to be granted Apple LTE approval

Apple has not yet granted O2 UK approval to offer its new 5s and 5c iPhone models on the operator’s newly launched LTE network. While O2 has denied failing any of Apple’s network approval tests, a spokesman confirmed that the tests have not yet been passed.

As reported last year Apple does not allow mobile operators to offer iPhones as LTE devices unless they pass the Californian vendor’s own, independent tests for LTE network performance.

In a blog post on Wednesday O2 said that it will offer the devices from September 20, with pre-ordering available from September 13th. But it added that the new models will not function on the LTE network until “new settings are ready to be sent by Apple.” The post was vague about timeframes, saying only that those settings will be made available “in the coming weeks”.

Apple has listed the LTE networks that will support the two new devices on its product web pages. In the UK this is limited to O2’s rivals EE and Vodafone.

Vodafone and O2 launched their LTE networks on the same day, August 29th this year. Vodafone told that it could not reveal when Apple tested its network and granted its approval, due to contractual obligations with the device maker. Apple is notoriously secretive in its dealings with operators and operators themselves are extremely reluctant to speak about the nature of their commercial arrangements.

Nonetheless a source within one of Europe’s leading LTE operators told that Apple’s approval is usually granted a fortnight before an operator begins ranging the product. Fewer than five executives within the operator have access to the testing data, our source said, and each of these must sign a personal NDA with Apple.

“It is standard for operators to be able to internally confirm ranging new Apple devices around two weeks ahead of launch,” said our source. “But if you don’t complete the testing in time then you miss the window.”

An O2 spokesman told that the testing of the new iPhone models on its LTE network is ongoing. But while approval has clearly yet to be granted he categorically denied that O2’s network had failed any of Apple’s tests to date. “We’re waiting for Apple to release the software so [the iPhone 5s and 5c] will work on our 4G service,” he said. The testing is happening “as we speak,” he said. “As soon as that’s sorted these devices will work on O2’s 4G service.”

He added that those customers who do sign up for the iPhone 5S or 5c as an LTE device on O2 will receive a £5 discount for the first month, to compensate for the lack of 4G support for the initial period.

While O2 anticipates that it will be offering the devices on its LTE network within a few weeks, our European LTE operator source suggested that the next Apple software update might not be released until November. O2’s spokesman said this timeframe was not in line with the operator’s understanding of the situation.

O2 was Apple’s UK operator partner for the launch of the original iPhone in 2007.

By Mike Hibberd and Dawinderpal Sahota

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