Apple is known to exert a great deal of control over carriers due to the leverage it has thanks to the popularity of the iPhone. A report from Telecoms.com adds to the many, already documented, instances of Apple calling the shots in its relationship with carriers. If your LTE/4G network doesn’t pass Apple’s tests you can’t have the iPhone 5 with LTE.
According to the report, Apple doesn’t enable LTE on the iPhone 5 on a carrier’s network unless it passes the company’s own set of tests. Telecoms.com got confirmation of Apple’s policy after speaking to Switzerland carrier Swisscom:
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.
Typically, testing is done the other way round—a carrier conducts its own tests to ensure that a phone, and its associated software, function well with the network. The inverted dynamics are definitely unique to Apple, since Bengt Nordstrom, CEO of an industry consultancy firm, NorthStream, was “shocked” on learning this piece of information:
Nordstrom said he was “shocked” when told about the policy, which restricts operators to offering the new device on 4G 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 quite a lot.”
Although the report mentions only the iPhone 5, it’s likely that even the LTE iPad is subject to the same tests.
To cover the most possible LTE bands, and hence be compatible with a wide array of carriers all around the globe, Apple made three different variations of the iPhone 5. Due to complexities involved when dealing with different LTE bands in different regions, Apple needs to ensure that the carrier’s network and the iPhone play well with each other.
Is this a good thing for Apple to demand? An example of “customer first” or just being control freaks?