Yesterday UK network Everything Everywhere, the rebranded merger of T-Mobile and Orange, officially demonstrated the UK’s first high speed 4G LTE network. Attendees were able to get very high speeds on their mobiles; nearly 40 Mb/s down and 24 Mb/s up. That’s a lot faster than the majority of home broadband connections, although no doubt speeds will be lowered due to higher network utilisation once the service officially goes live.
That’s expected to happen in the weeks ahead in four cities in the UK: Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff and London. High speed data networks will be added to more cities before the end of the year, including Belfast, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Sheffield and Southampton. There’s also good news for those out of major cities - 98% of the country is expected to have 4G coverage by 2014.
As well as a new network, the newly rebranded EE also announced a number of new handsets for the UK market to take advantage of LTE connectivity. These include some of the most popular Android and Windows Phone handsets: The Samsung Galaxy S III LTE, the HTC One XL and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE for Android, and the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 for Windows Phone. The Nokia handsets are yet to be released, and the 920 is going to be an EE exclusive for some time.
Of course, there’s one major mobile OS that isn’t represented in that list - and that’s the iPhone. While no iPhone currently supports high speed LTE networks, later today Apple is holding a press conference. They are widely expected to announce the next iPhone, the iPhone 5, and that iPhone is expected to support LTE speeds. Not only will the iPhone 5 support American LTE networks, but it has also been reported by the Wall Street Journal to have support for global LTE networks. That makes it seem extremely likely that the new iPhone 5 LTE will be launched here in the UK, and like the Nokia Lumia 920 it is also going to be a de-facto exclusive for EE.
That could be a massive advantage to EE. While no doubt operators on other networks would sell iPhone 5s by the bucket load, an iPhone 5 with an LTE connection will be the most desirable of them all and could prove to be the single most important handset for the newly christened network.
We’ll find out if this is indeed the case later today. Apple’s press conference is scheduled for 10 AM Pacific Time, equivalent to 6 PM here in the UK. As well as LTE connectivity, Apple is expected to announce a new 4″ form factor with an elongated 16:9 aspect ratio display and a new smaller ‘Lightning’ dock connector. These factors will necessitate a new iPhone 5 case and new iPhone 5 accessories, no doubt to the pleasure to accessory vendors everywhere. The new iPhone is also expected to support via iOS 6 NFC contactless payments, which could be a boon to the burgeoning technology’s rate of acceptance.
Be sure to tune in to your favourite gadget blog for live reporting, or check back for a comprehensive article on the day’s announcements.