Just as UK iPhone 5 owners were coming to terms with the dismal prospects for a proper 4G rollout a breakthrough has been made between warring carriers, regulators and the government to push forward the UK 4G release date. See also: iPhone 5 review
Apple iPhone 5 awaits UK 4G
All the UK's mobile operators have now agreed a new UK 4G rollout timetable, promising high-speed data services by spring 2013. See also: iPhone 5 doesn't support 4G in UK
iPhone 5 users with carriers other than EE may still find themselves without 4G, however.
In a meeting apparently brokered by Culture secretary Maria Miller communications regulator Ofcom and mobile operators, including O2, Vodafone and EE, agreed to settle their differences in order to push 4G data speeds to an earlier release date in the UK – up to six months earlier than originally planned.
Operator EE had been given permission to add 4G to its network, leaving other UK carriers to have to wait until late 2013 before they could offer faster-than-3G data services.
O2 and Vodafone had planned to take legal action against EE and Ofcom, but have now dropped these plans.
This means that EE will be able to more quickly go live with its brand of LTE 4G.
News of Ofcom's decision to approve EE's request to use its existing 1800MHz spectrum for next generation 4G services, which will likely launch this month, several months ahead of its competitors, caused controversy in the UK telecoms industry.
"Delivering 4G quickly is a key part of our economic growth strategy," said Culture Secretary Maria Miller.
"I am grateful to the mobile operators for their co-operation in bringing forward vital 4G services."
Carriers such as Vodafone and O2 still have to wait for the January 2013 auction of the airwaves made available by the digital TV switchover, but rapid 4G adoption after that should now be possible with Ofcom securing an earlier release of 4G frequencies.
However, smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone 5 will still not automatically work on the new 4G networks as it uses different frequency bands.
EE's network uses the 1800MHz spectrum which is supported by the iPhone 5. Although O2 and Vodafone will be bidding for 4G spectrum in Ofcom's upcoming auction, the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrums do not match the iPhone 5's 4G specification.