Apple vetting operators on LTE network performance

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. 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 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 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 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”. requested comment from Apple but had received no reply at the time of publication.

The LTE World Summit, the premier 4G event for the telecoms industry, is taking place on the 24th-26th June 2013, at the Amsterdam RAI, Netherlands. Click here to download a flyer for the event.


  1. Avatar Nate 30/11/2012 @ 8:03 pm

    What is really unfortunate is the Rural Connect America carrier that have VZ’s 700 Mhz LTE on thier towers that can be accessed by the VZ iPhone 5′ but not the rural carriers own iPhone 5′. Most tech savvy people in my area are being pushed to go to VZ because of this, it is a shame.

  2. Avatar Daniel Swanson 30/11/2012 @ 8:06 pm

    I think this is a very good idea. Although I’ve been with AT&T since the mobile “stone age” in the late ’90s and have been quite pleased with its service over the decades, I trust Apple far more than AT&T to test performance of our phones and iPads to ensure they’re working up to Apple’s standards on AT&T’s system. That means we ALL win–the THREE of us.

  3. Avatar Ryan 30/11/2012 @ 8:15 pm

    I can’t blame Apple for this at all. Even if it is the network’s fault for bad service, the average user is going to complain about the PHONE not being fast enough or good enough. This type of negative market sentiment can kill a device, even the iPhone. Apple’s goal is to provide the user with a particular experience; pseudo-controlling the carrier is unfortunately the only current, viable method which will work. If you recall, the phone was only available on ONE carrier for a very long time for this exact reason.

  4. Avatar James H 30/11/2012 @ 9:16 pm

    I think this is the way it should be. Apple’s iPhone 4 got all kinds of bad publicity about difficult reception, some Apple’s fault, but much of it due to the AT&T networks, overwhelmingly in New York and San Francisco, where they stank, giving rise to a lot of the illuminati in those two cities yelping about dropped calls. And Apple had no way to say, in many cases, whether the sketchy connection had to do with them or with the networks in those areas. If you’d talk to people in Dallas, they’d say it was great! (And it got a lot sketchier than that: often, what someone says about their phone has far more to do with the tower’s location relative to theirs at home and at work. So, why not? LTE is new. Apple should have some way of locating trouble, and there’s no point in giving an inferior network your phone, because people won’t blame the network. They’ll blame the phone.

  5. Avatar DV Henkel-Wallace 30/11/2012 @ 9:59 pm

    This is excellent news. The carriers’ attitude towards their customers has been uniformly dreadful(de haut en bas toward their customers) across the board.

    This isn’t to say that I think Apple are some sort of saints, but they care that their phone doesn’t seem terrible, and they are the only ones with the ability to push back at the carriers.

  6. Avatar aaaaa 30/11/2012 @ 10:48 pm

    Good for Apple…telecoms have been bullies for too long.

  7. Avatar gazwa dubin 30/11/2012 @ 11:05 pm

    Does Apple do billing tests?

  8. Avatar Gadget Funkie 01/12/2012 @ 6:25 am

    Best thing ever happened to the telecom industry is Apple.
    Telecom companies have been bullies too long and always disregarded customers best interest, Apple has changed the game and paying customers are slowly getting their importance back.

  9. Avatar Joel 01/12/2012 @ 6:39 am

    I think it’s important to remember that Apple doesn’t only sell products, they sell you an entire “user experience” for lack of a better term. Everything about Apple’s products are look and feel and how it just works. I see this as just another way of Apple protecting or ensuring a positive user experience. If only other vendors (and wireless providers) cared half as much for their customers.

  10. Avatar Kaspar 01/12/2012 @ 12:09 pm

    I’m pretty sure Apple is only trying to avoid another antennagate. They are testing and bugfixing their phones, not the network itself.

    • Avatar James Middleton 01/12/2012 @ 1:13 pm

      Hi Kaspar. No they are actually testing the network, to see if it comes up to their standards.

  11. Avatar Steveone 02/12/2012 @ 5:13 am

    “They’ll blame the phone.” … Yes this is exactly what’s happening now, I’m blaming the device as it’s not offering me what I’ve paid for. I’m living in Switzerland, in one of these LTE enabled locations and I don’t understand why other LTE capable devices are working and why as an Apple customer, I need to wait for a “somewhere in 2013” patch.

    What about others? MS (Nokia) or Android LTE devices? they worked perfectly from day 1. I’m just feeling bad when my neighbours are l laughing on me and on my expensive device which is not able to connect to LTE

    • Avatar John 04/12/2012 @ 6:19 pm

      Then you shouldn’t have bought an inferior iPhone that can’t connect to your areas LTE network, if it was so important to have LTE right away.

      Your paying your price for devotion to Apple, who is not about bleeding edge hardware.

    • Avatar jackie 06/12/2012 @ 2:48 pm

      Also a Swisscom customer, also looking to get a new phone. Why would I buy Apple’s 3G to use for the next 2 years when I can get a Samsung with LTE today? We’ve come a long way from the AT&T-only days. Apple, get over yourself!

      (You can blame AT&T for the poor initial iPhone performance but Apple agreed to exclusivity with AT&T; they helped make that bed.)

  12. Avatar SIM-free iPhone user in Tokyo, Japan 02/12/2012 @ 7:22 am

    A Director General, Telecommunication Ministry of Japan representing official and public interest, requested major 3 (NTT Docomo, auKDDI and Softbank) and other minor carriers to unlock their cellphones, particularly iPhone. But, most of them replied negatively, I guess, to protect interest of their earmarked manufacturers and to keep sucking from their ring-fenced customers.

    There are tied monopoly markets and no free competitive market in Japan as far as mobile phone is concerned.

  13. Avatar Mobile operator 02/12/2012 @ 3:34 pm

    Can someone reading this provide contacts from Apple, whom we can refer and ask to test our LTE network? I’ve been trying to contact Apple to find the right person who deals with mobile carriers, but no luck.

    We have the network, we have a reasonable subscriber base, and we are eager to provide our customers using iPhone5 the best experience using our fast and reliable high speed Internet access.

  14. Avatar Da 02/12/2012 @ 8:53 pm

    China Mobile is not allowing Apple to offer the iPhone in its network unless Apple pass the world largest network’s own tests for financial feasibility. So far the iPhone has constantly failed.

  15. Avatar Nathan Anderson 03/12/2012 @ 4:56 pm

    (I apologize if this comments ends up showing up twice…I posted it earlier but it never appeared, so I’m trying again.)

    I personally think this is a terrible policy. People keep talking about how Apple is looking out for the end-user here and fighting the big, bad carriers on their behalf. I certainly have no love lost on the carriers, but after the garbage I’ve had to put up with recently on my own iPhone (details at, this strikes me as being more of the same. This has the potential to negatively impact users, too, not just carriers. What if I as a user have an unlocked iPhone, and I move to a new place and bring my unlocked iPhone with me? Let’s say there is a carrier in this area that has an LTE network that is fully capable of being used with my unlocked iPhone 5, and I (you know, “the user”) decide that I want to use that network, but my iPhone refuses to connect to that LTE system not because of any issue with incompatibility, but because Apple hasn’t authorized that specific network.

    That’s bullcrap.

    The way people are talking, you’d think that either we are fated to be stuck with a scenario in which the carriers bully us and the handset manufacturers, or we’re stuck with a scenario in which the handset manufacturers get to bully us and the carriers. We’ve not had the opportunity to see what the latter scenario would be like to live under, but we have all had plenty of the former, and it sucked, so I guess people feel like the latter option MUST be better. But it’s a false dichotomy! These aren’t the only two options, people. How about we divorce the sale of handsets from wireless network subscriptions entirely? It worked for the wireline industry 50-some-odd years ago, and it can work here, too.

    • Avatar John 04/12/2012 @ 6:23 pm

      I hope that’s not what they are talking about, I would imagine these tests are to allow the carrier to offer the iphone in their stores, unlocked phones in my mind should be unaffected, otherwise they aren’t really unlocked and that’s definitely false advertising

  16. Avatar T Marks 09/12/2012 @ 3:47 pm

    Does Apple have network engineers that understand how a network should perform? I’m sure they do but not as many as the network providers. I’m sure the network providers test as diligently as they can and do not want to release any bad products either. So the request for additional testing is valid.

    But if I owned an operating iPhone and moved elsewhere where I can’t use it because Apple decided I can’t use it I’ll be pretty pissed. Let me decide what I can and cannot do with my property.

  17. Avatar W_ 10/12/2012 @ 9:00 pm

    I like this, because there are several carriers that just slow down their LTE to save costs. Apple knows how fast is possible and can help to protect it’s customers for money sucking carriers.

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