Is Australian 4G braced for iPhone 5 impact?

On 26/10/2012 by Ron
(originally posted on 

iPhone 5Apple launched the iPhone 5 overnight, with the usual fanfare we’ve come to expect from such an event.

Australian pricing will be $799 for 16GB of storage, $899 for 32GB and $999 for 64GB, and customers can pre-order the iPhone 5 from tomorrow (Friday 14/09). Product will ship from tomorrow week (Friday 21/09).

The new iPhone is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, the iPhone 4S. It also has a 4-inch screen, bigger than previous 3½-inch screens, and Apple has squeezed an additional row of application icons into the extra real estate.

The iPhone 5 also has a new 8-pin “Lightning” connector. The previous 30-pin port, found in millions of iPhones, iPod Touch music players, iPads and their chargers and accessories, has overnight been consigned to “legacy” status by Apple. The company did say it would produce an adapter to make existing 30-pin accessories compatible with the iPhone 5.

4G Compatibility

After the P.R.-disaster of the 3rd-generation iPad, when Apple was taken to task by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Federal Court, it was important for the tech giant to get this one right.

It has.

Apple confirmed the new iPhone 5 is compatible with Australian 4G/LTE phone networks running at 1800 MHz, including Telstra’s NextG network, and Optus 4G (which includesVirgin Mobile).

Vodafone customers (which includes people still on Three contracts) will have to wait until their 4G network is switched on sometime next year. The iPhone 5 will work on Vodafone, but with existing 3G/HSPA data connectivity. Vodafone has been upgrading its network to what it calls “3G+” and says it now offers data speeds up to 19 Mbps in some areas.

Brace for impact!

But are networks adequately equipped to cope with the inevitable spike in data use that we’ll see on Friday the 21st of September?

Many people will see a logical upgrade path to the iPhone 5, particularly owners of iPhone 3GS models. The new operating system (iOS 6), improved physical specifications and 4G/LTE capability will no doubt entice owners of older iPhones to consider upgrading, especially if they’re nearing the end of a post-paid contract with an older handset. Apple stores Australia-wide should brace for impact on Friday week.

Apple Store Doncaster

The calm before the storm? Source: RK

The 4G/LTE networks in Australia are still in their infancy. Compatible handsets have only been around since January, and the existing range is still comparatively limited. Presently, Telstra is selling just four 4G/LTE handsets (the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G, and the HTC One, the Velocity 4G and the Titan 4G), and Optus selling just two (the Samsung Galaxy S III 4G and HTC One).

Telstra’s NextG network is continually being upgraded to accommodate new services and subscribers. But when thousands of new handsets are suddenly “powered up” on Friday  week, how will the 4G/LTE network deal with this enormous load?

If congestion levels are too high, the iPhone 5 handsets will of course drop back to the carriers’ 3G/HSPA networks. But the danger is that handsets will stay connected to the 4G/LTE networks and just run disappointingly slowly. The ABC’s Technology and Games correspondent Nick Ross asks a valid question:

…when Telstra’s 4G launched we saw staggering speeds of around 50Mb/s download and 30Mb/s upload. A year on you’re now more likely to get 10Mb/s each way. What will we get this time next week when the new iPhones start coming to life? (Source.)

On the flipside, non-4G/LTE users could conceivably experience an overnight improvement in data rates, as early adopters make the jump to the newer networks.

Time will tell, and we don’t have long to wait. Hopefully the telcos’ capacity planning has been thorough and conservative, and proud owners of Apple’s shiny new iPhone 5 can leverage the bandwidth of properly provisioned mobile data networks.

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