Berit Svendsen, executive vice president of Telenor Group and CEO at Telenor Norway

Norwegian operator Telenor is becoming increasingly frustrated with Apple’s failure to support LTE on its network in Norway, the firm’s CEO told Telecoms.com.

This week, the operator switched on its LTE network in the northern district of Tromsø, which uses spectrum in the 1800MHz band. However, Apple’s iPhone 5, which supports LTE on the same band in the UK and Germany, has not enabled the device to support LTE in the district. LTE is not supported throughout the rest of the country either, where the operator has deployed LTE using the 2.6GHz spectrum band.

Speaking to Telecoms.com, Berit Svendsen, CEO at Telenor Norway, said she is growing weary of Apple’s process of enabling the iPhone to support more LTE networks.

“I don’t think there are many operators in Europe that have started to support LTE on the iPhone 5, and we are still waiting for Apple to make some small changes to the iOS so that the phone works on our 1800MHz frequency up in Tromsø,” she said.

“They are not ready; we have been asking them for a long time. They have been saying that they are going to fix it, but they haven’t.  We asked them half a year ago – I sent a mail to them, they have been responsive but they still haven’t fixed it.”

Telecoms.com broke the news that Apple does not allow mobile operators to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device until it has tested the performance of their LTE networks, at the end of November last year. What we know is that the iPhone 5 talks to a server at Apple, which keeps a list of approved PLMN (public land mobile network) codes and if the code for any given operator is on the whitelist, LTE is activated on devices on that network. It’s emerged however that some small modification needs to be pushed out to iOS in order to enable this, which is what Telenor is still waiting  for.

The experience of Svendsen echoes that of Jafar Asimov, head of the automation department at Tajikistani operator Babilon- Mobile, who said last year that he has been trying to get in touch with Apple in a bid to get his LTE network approved by the handset vendor, but to no avail.

Svendsen explained that the operator currently supports three LTE-enabled devices on its network; smartphones from Nokia, Samsung and Sony. While the operator is still selling the iPhone 5, it has been forced to market it as a 3G device in Norway.

“In Europe, it has not been common to build LTE networks with 1800MHz. It is in the US, but Apple is not responding to us. Maybe it is in some other large markets, but not in Norway, because it is a small country.”

When Telecoms.com revealed that Apple is not allowing mobile operators to offer the iPhone 5 as an LTE device unless they pass the company’s own, independent tests for LTE network performance, a Swisscom spokesperson said that: “Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network.”

Informa analyst Dimitris Mavrakis warned at the time that this policy is likely to hit smaller, unaffiliated operators hardest.

“Apple would not do this to the tier one players,” he told Telecoms.com. “But for smaller operators, or European players with a limited subscriber base, Apple has the audacity to do this and I’m not sure all operators will even make it to the testing phase.”

In January 2013, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the firm would add another 36 networks to the selection of carriers that are permitted to offer the iPhone 5 with LTE support enabled. However, the expanded list did not extend to carriers in parts of Asia and Russia.

Apple was not available for comment at the time of writing.

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