EE, the UK’s first 4G LTE operator, has been given a further boost by the news that Apple’s latest iPhone will be available on its network.
The iPhone 5 launched on Wednesday with over 200 new features, including LTE compatibility, on the latest iOS 6 operating system.
EE, which only launched on Tuesday itself, said it will offer the new device to customers although it has still not revealed any details over how it will price its service or when exactly it will launch.
For its part, Apple said its device will be available on 21 September priced at around €155.
The iPhone 5 joins seven other devices on EE’s network, including the latest Nokia phones, which launched last week.
The news sets up a battle between Nokia’s flagship Lumia 920 (pictured) and the iPhone 5.
But as Nokia has yet to reveal the launch date and pricing of its devices, it is already playing catch up with its US-based rival.
Given Nokia sold just four million Lumia devices in Q2, the scale of the challenge facing the struggling telco is clear.
Ovum’s Jan Dawson said it is “likely” that Apple will sell “tens of millions” of iPhone 5 devices in the next few months and well over 100 million in total over the next year.
However, Informa analyst David McQueen said Apple would not have it all its own way.
“In combination, the strength of [Apple, Nokia and Samsung] devices and platforms will combine to give the most competitive and intriguing smartphone quarter for a number of years,” he said.
CCS Insight founder Shaun Collins said EE had been given “a de-facto exclusive” on the iPhone 5 in the UK that would leave its marketing department “purring at the possibilities”.
However, Ovum’s Matthew Howett suggested it might not be all good news for EE thanks to what its rivals might do.
“EE will effectively have an initial monopoly on sales of the iPhone 5 since customers will only fully benefit from its capabilities if they take it though EE,” he said.
“For Vodafone and O2, who have spoken out against EE’s early 4G launch, this could well be what they were waiting for before launching a legal challenge to Ofcom’s decision.
“The regulator must be fairly confident of its position and has said will be ready to defend it. The impact the challenge has on EE’s launch will crucially depend on whether a court would approve a suspension of service. If so, the reputation to what is only a one-day-old brand could prove fatal.”
Even if EE does avoid a day in court, there are further challenges facing EE, experts believe.
On the network side, Arieso’s Michael Flanagan highlighted the challenges posed by the anticipated increase in data.
“The iPhone 5 will be the new crowned king of data consumption and the combination of increased data consumption per device and hordes of eager, new owners will make it necessary for network operators to redouble their efforts to satisfy new extremes of data demand,” he said.
In particular, Ciena’s Mervyn Kelly said operators needed to ensure they optimised their backhaul networks to handle high-bandwidth services.
Amdocs’ Yossi Zohar, meanwhile, pointed to the effect on back office functions.
“The concentrated burst of new product launches could cause more than gentle ripples in support operation because with each new device comes a plethora of new advanced technology – like Nokia’s City Lens augmented reality feature and wireless charging – leaving customers perplexed by device configuration and connectivity settings,” he warned.
“Smart CRM solutions need to be in place to support such product launches, enabling a 360 degree view of the customer to resolve these types of issues quickly and effectively to achieve high ROI and keep new customers happy.”
Although EE has had its hand strengthened by first Ofcom and now the device manufacturers, the challenge of delivery now begins amid the shadow of a legal challenge.
For Nokia, without a definitive pricing and shipping timetable, it may be that it has already lost the PR war before we even mention other rivals such as Huawei, HTC and Samsung.
As per usual, it seems the only certainty is that Apple will be a guaranteed winner.