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Because AT&T (NYSE:T) jumped the gun, some users thought the iPhone 4S could connect to 4G networks. In reality, AT&T was able to increase the speed of its 3G connection through software updates, and called this change the “fourth generation” of its network. Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5 will be the first of the line with real 4G capability, but the technology is so new that many carriers and countries aren’t ready to take advantage of it.
There will be one iPhone 5 model that supports AT&T’s network, one for Sprint (NYSE:S) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and one for the rest of the world. Different carriers operate on different wireless spectrum bands, and therefore require different hardware. As if this didn’t create enough problems in the United States, there are only two carriers in Europe whose networks actually support the 4G on the “rest of the world” iPhone 5 model.
Deutsche Telekom and Everything Everywhere operate on compatible frequencies. Pretty much every one else in the region is stuck with a slower network. Many people see 4G as a huge selling point for the iPhone 5, as competitors like Samsung and HTC have been making 4G-enabled phones for over a year.
European operators are expected to spend $15.25 billion in 4G infrastructure over the next three years, but the area is behind the U.S. and Asia in coverage. Without access to this network, many Europeans may not bother shooting for the iPhone upgrade because they won’t benefit from all the perks. However, even without access to a 4G network, the iPhone 5 supports a faster version of 3G, which many European carriers say will draw customers to the new Apple device.
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