No LTE yet for SA iPhone 5 users
South African iPhone 5 users won’t be able to enjoy the handset’s next-generation broadband functionality until Apple has vetted local mobile operators’ networks. By Craig Wilson.
Although the iPhone 5, which was launched in South Africa last month, has the necessary hardware to support the fourth-generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) networks being built by MTN and Vodacom, the handset won’t connect to these networks until Apple has completed its own testing of them and is satisfied they meet requirements.
Apple vets the network of each operator that offers the latest iPhone individually before “provisioning” them for LTE and pushing a software update to iPhone 5s in those markets.
This vetting process takes about eight weeks, according to a South African industry insider, which suggests local users should see the update before the end of February. Neither MTN nor Vodacom are prepared to commit to a timeframe.
The increased level of control on Apple’s part may stem, at least in part, from the “antenna-gate” debacle it faced with the iPhone 4, where many users and critics lambasted the company for poor call quality caused by problems with the antenna in the phone. At the time, Apple tried to shift the blame to network operators, with mixed success.
As the network itself is such a key aspect of end users’ experience, it’s perhaps not surprising Apple is flexing its muscles – after all, the company is not averse to calling the shots when it comes to how operators manage its devices. Apple doesn’t allow them to install any third-party applications before sale and operators are wary of leaks before the release of a new Apple product for fear of punitive measures being imposed on them.
According to a note on Vodacom’s Facebook page, LTE is currently not enabled on the iPhone 5 in South Africa but “this functionality will hopefully be made available by the manufacturer early [in 2013]”.
MTN says the iPhone 5 model available in South Africa — the A1429 GSM variant — supports the frequency bands it’s using for its 4G/LTE service.
“Although the iPhone 5 supports the hardware requirements for MTN’s 1 800MHz LTE spectrum implementation, this feature has been disabled via the operating system software,” MTN says, adding that it is working with Apple to release the software “in due time”. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media