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UK 4G Spectrum Illustrated. Who’s using what

30/08/2013

** Update ** – This article touches on1800MHz spectrum – in the comments section below these are further clarified. 

** Update 2 ** – Additional chart with  900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz, 2600MHz detailed

What with O2 and Vodafone releasing their 4G networks this week, and Three announcing that they will release theirs in December you may be wondering about the what LTE frequencies they will be operating on.  You may be wondering if your iPhone 5 will work also.  It won’t, not on the new frequencies 800MHz and 2600MHz but read on and see the comments below.

Broadly speaking, the auctioned LTE frequencies are in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.  But these are further broken down into smaller bands allocated to each mobile network operator.  The bands and the breakdowns are in the first chart  below.

The second chart shows the existing 2G/3G frequencies – of which 900MHz will be re-farmed by O2 and Vodafone to further supply 4G services.

Looking at these you can see exactly why the Apple iPhone 5 released in 2012 and working on EE’s pre-auction 4G network will not operate with the other UK operators. Although it should be said that Three will support 1800MHz 4G when they are allowed to later.   When building the iPhone 5 Apple chose to implement only the 1800MHz frequency which was re-farmed by EE, with OFCOM permission, to use LTE upon.   However, the iPhone 5 will not work on 800MHz, 900MHz and 2.6GHz frequencies.

Generally, but by no means a 100% certainty, any LTE-capable phone bought during 2013 should work on these frequencies with O2, Vodafone, Three and EE when they start using this “Euro” spectrum.

So there you have it. The UK’s LTE frequencies at a glance.

Are you going to go for the new network technology? Which network will you choose?

LTE Frequencies

 

UK LTE Freqs

Credits: Dominic Thompson for the chart.

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From → Mobile

3 Comments
  1. The diagram ignores the 1800MHz range though, for which EE have already launched (as mentioned), but as part of their merger, they sold off some of the 1800MHz range they had, and Three announced it would be using this, alongside it’s new allocations in the 4G auction, to create a 4G network. So, surely, an iPhone 5 will work on some of the Three LTE frequency range?

    In addition to this, both Vodafone and O2 had their Ofcom agreements modified earlier this year to allow them to “refarm” some of their 900MHz and 1800Mhz ranges for 4G, so although not their primary frequency ranges, it might (in time) be possible to get an iPhone 5 to work on many of the 4G networks, if only in a limited way, via 1800Mhz.

    The biggest issue, of course, is that, as you point out, having an “LTE-capable” device does not guarantee it will work with all of the UK networks, as it will depend on whether support for the right range of frequencies have been built into the device, and I can foresee a few “why doesn’t it work” moments over the next year or two from people who bought what is, in essence, the “wrong device” for their preferred network, especially when they switch from one network to another.

    • Thanks Stephen, you are completely right of course. In this article I focussed only on the auctioned spectrum and not the re-farmed 1800MHz of EE. I also avoided Three’s use of 1800MHz because it is not yet entirely clear that they will use this for LTE. Although it is a fair bet that they will indeed do so.

      I can forsee a time of iPhone 5 users wandering around the country wondering why their device sometimes cannot access LTE because their provider has not deployed LTE/1800MHz in that particular cell area. It is, as you say, going to cause some confusion.

      • To be fair to Three, when they bought the 1800MHz range from EE, they said they would use it for 4G, but I agree things could change.

        Of course, if all the networks rolled out decent throughput on HSPA (3G) without throttling, we would not need to care whether we had 3G or 4G on our phones…

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