Apple is apparently quite strict when it comes to allowing carriers to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device, requiring carriers to allow Apple to independently test the quality of their LTE network. If the network is up to Apple’s standards, then they will enable LTE functionality on the iPhone 5. This test can mean that, as carriers across the world start rolling out their LTE networks, the iPhone 5 won’t be immediately useable as an LTE device. At least that's what Swiss carrier Swisscom has discovered, according to a report by Telecoms.com:
Swisscom launched its LTE network this week although the iPhone 5 was not available as an LTE device at launch. “Apple will provide a software update in due course,” the firm said in a press release.
Carriers have always tested devices to make sure that they ran properly on their networks, but handset manufacturers don’t normally run tests on the network. Apple’s policy gives them control over carriers, and pressures those who want the iPhone 5 to run on their network to make sure that it is reliable as soon as possible.
This test could also be a primary reason that an unlocked iPhone 5 will not work on an LTE network that is not affiliated with Apple. If Apple hasn’t vetted the network, then the iPhone doesn’t have the software update that allows it to work on LTE.
Most handset makers don’t have the power to demand the ability to test networks. Apple can do this because people want the iPhone, and they don’t want the phone they buy to have any functionality disabled because their carrier didn’t meet Apple’s standards. This affords Apple the opportunity to hold their carrier partners to Apple’s standards of quality, at least with network performance. While it might seem like an inconvenience, this policy may help encourage carriers to get their LTE networks right, and not rushing them just to say they have LTE.