O2 and Vodafone customers will miss out on using the iPhone 5 on a 4G network, due to the technology contained on the handset.
The device, which was announced last night (12 September), can run on 4G networks across three radio frequencies - 850MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz. However, both Vodafone and O2 do not have free spectrum on these frequencies, meaning their customers will not be able to use the latest Apple device to its full capabilities.
By contrast, EE will offer a 4G service on 1800MHz, one of those supported by the iPhone. Three recently bought a chunk of 1800MHz spectrum from EE and could use it to launch a 4G service, once it receives the spectrum by September 2013.
One option would be for O2 and Vodafone to refarm their 2100MHz spectrum holdings. However, both companies would need to approach Ofcom for permission and it could be a lengthy process.While O2 and Vodafone customers will lose out on the iPhone 5 on 4G, they will be able to use other Android devices on 4G networks. Ovum analyst Matthew Howett said forthcoming devices will be able to run on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies, both of which will be sold during next year's 4G auction.
An O2 spokesman said it would offer customers who buy an iPhone 5 during the next few months the option to upgrade to a 4G device when the operator launches its own network. However, the customer will have to buy out their own contract, albeit with O2 contributing 10% of the cost and paying the VAT. Vodafone was unavailable for comment.
Editor: Graeme Neill