Apple exerts more control over cellular networks than any other technology company on the planet. If a carrier wants to sell the iPhone they have to pay Apple a heft subsidy. Before getting the iPhone 5 to run on their LTE network, Apple has to come around and make sure it doesn’t suck before they enable LTE on the iPhone or iPad.
The reason behind Apple testing carrier’s networks before enabling 4G is pretty simple – Apple doesn’t want it’s users to have a crappy experience. But no other smartphone maker in the world has a policy where they get to test a carrier’s network before turning a feature on, it’s usually the other way around, and some carriers think Apple is getting a little too big for its boots.
Swiss operator Swisscom admitted that Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network. Swissconn launched its LTE network this week but the iPhone 5 wasn’t available as an LTE device yet because Apple hasn’t finished it’s tests on the network.
Once Apple completes the tests on Swisscom’s LTE network and deems it worthy of the iPhone then a software update will enable LTE on all iPhone 5s and iPads.
Bengt Nordstrom, founder and CEO at industry consultancy NorthStream said that his firm had also learned of Apple’s network testing policy in October. Nordstrom said he was “shocked” when told about the policy, which restricts operators to offering the new device on 3G networks until Apple enables LTE functionality.
It proved, he said, “who is running the industry”, adding: “Apple have put themselves in the driving seat; it’s really changing the game.”
Extensive network testing of handsets has always been necessary, but the main goal has historically been to determine whether that handset will function on the network, not whether the network will work for a particular handset as Apple has reversed the situation.