Apple presents the iPhone 12 as a super-fast device. But in Germany, the smartphone will not even come onto the market. This is not the fault of the group, but of the Federal Republic itself.
Apple’s presentation of the new iPhone models culminated in a frenzy of speeds on Tuesday. All four new iPhone 12 models could transmit up to 3.5 gigabits per second in the new networks of the fifth generation of cellular 5G, according to Apple. In his guest appearance, Verizon boss Hans Vestberg even spoke of four gigabits that would be possible in his network in the USA.
This is a breathtaking speed at which 140 ultra-high definition Netflix films could be streamed simultaneously – on a single iPhone. In Germany, no private user has ever seen such Internet access – neither in the mobile network nor in the fixed network.
Even the fastest fiber-optic connections that households can book in this country can only manage a quarter. Will the iPhone become high-speed internet access in Germany?
Apart from the fact that it is pointless to stream 140 films at the same time on a smartphone: In Germany, the iPhone will not be able to do this either. Because Apple is not selling its iPhone model at top speed in this country.
Several gigabits per second are only possible in the 5G network in one frequency band known as mmWave or millimeter-wave. And they don’t even exist in 5G networks in this country. Therefore, Apple omits this frequency band on the devices that come to Germany.
Frequencies not yet assigned
In fact, the Federal Network Agency has not yet awarded these frequencies. A survey of market participants is currently being carried out to determine whether they even need these radio waves. The network agency is only planning the local allocation of such frequencies so that at some point they can only be used for radio networks in factories.
Even if the local iPhones cannot reach the speeds of the US models, they are among the most powerful 5G smartphones that can be bought. Mobile operators in Germany are currently building their 5G networks on several frequencies that are supported by the new iPhones without exception. Under the best conditions, a speed of one gigabit per second would be possible. Theoretically.
In practice, however, they are significantly lower at several hundred megabits per second. However, in most cases, the user should not even notice the difference to the gigabit on his smartphone, as there are no applications that really need this speed on the small display.
Especially since the 5G networks in Germany are only just being set up. In many places, they simply don’t exist. Deutsche Telekom is furthest with its network. According to their own information, it reaches more than half of the population. By the end of the year, it should be two thirds. Vodafone wants to reach “far more than ten million people” with 5G by the end of the year.
Telefónica has only just started with 5G in five cities – but only at a speed of up to 300 megabits per second. According to the plan, half of the population should be supplied by the end of 2022.
iPhones accelerate 5G expansion
It is quite possible that the network expansion will accelerate with the new iPhones. Because the mobile operators are currently making advance payments because very few users have a smartphone that can receive 5G at all. They build the networks but have practically no users on them. “With the new iPhones we are now entering the mass market,” says Vodafone.
The market researcher Forrester also sees the new devices as stirrup holders for the nets. “Apple will do more for 5G than 5G for the new iPhones,” says Forrester analyst Thomas Husson. Apple is rarely the first company to bring new technologies to market but usually waits for a technology to be mature enough.
“I think we are slowly reaching this tipping point, and given the renewal cycles of smartphones, it is right that Apple is now going for 5G, even if there is little demand for a 5G product itself at the moment,” says Husson.
So many users in Germany will not notice much of the possible 5G speed of their iPhone. “5G does not automatically mean gigabit speed,” says Jens-Uwe Theumer, Vice President Telecommunications at the comparison portal Verivox. “The bandwidth depends on the network load and the frequency range used.” The speed also decreases if 4G and 5G are used in parallel on a cell tower.
The new iPhone is also picky. With the new model, Apple is introducing a function called Smart Data Mode. Even if a 5G network is available, the iPhone 12 switches back to the LTE network when 5G is not absolutely required – to save the battery.