A report on our sister publication Telecoms.com has confirmed as much after a Swisscom spokesperson inadvertently confirmed it in a report on its LTE network going live.
While full credit goes to Telecoms.com for breaking the story, it was some digging by yours truly that led to confirmation of the news.
While researching the Swisscom story, in its press release Swisscom said that its LTE network would be going live on a triumvirate of frequencies, 800, 1800 and 2600MHz. However, in the release Swisscom said that, “Apple will provide a software update in due course for customers with an iPhone 5 or one of the new iPads.” This piqued my interest, as the iPhone 5 supports 1800MHz LTE, so surely is would simply be a case if putting in a compatible SIM and letting it do its thing.
It seems not. After I enquired further about this Swisscom got back to me to say that, “The iPhone 5 requires a software update since Apple only enables 4G access after having successfully tested their device on an operators live network.”
What’s interesting about this is now it demonstrates that the pyramid has been inverted. Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream said he was ‘shocked’ by the news and that it proved that Apple is, “running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”
Operators used to be the ones who gave the go ahead on whether a device was good enough for its network – not the other way round. Carriers used to have the power to make or break a network. There are some who think that this has contributed to HTC’s decline over the last couple of years – with Samsung’s Android device getting most of the subsidy love in the US over HTC.
But as the most valuable company in the world Apple has a power that no one else has. It evidently conducts its own tests to determine whether the network is good enough, and only then will enable its phone to operate on that network via a software update.
It does have strong reasons for doing this. After the release of the original iPhone in 2007 exclusively on AT&T, Apple took a lot of flak after poor reports of performance on that network, and there was nothing it could do to correct that impression.
Now it can ensure that the network experience is as positive as possible, and after the Maps debacle and various other issues it needs to ensure it can do what it can to bolster its reputation.
From an industry perspective, the carriers are unlikely to be happy with this change in the power swing but the success of the iPhone means that the power is now in Apple’s hands and that is showing no sign of waning – just recently Sprint spent heavily (US$15billion over four years) to get the iPhone on its roster.
If you are to judge from the comments left on this story on the various sites around the web, (that is after all how we get a sense of these things these days) there are many punters that seem pleased that Apple is now running that show and dictating things to the carriers. Despite Apple being the one making the huge profits, many view the carriers as the ones restricting customers choice and squeezing the dollars from them anyway they can. While the network is central to what consumers want to do, what the carriers offer is invisible to most of them.
All that implies that when it comes to persuading consumers that the networks have the services that they want and should be paying for, such as Joyn, the operators are going to have their work cut out for them.