iPhone 5 on EE's 4G will use 3G for voice calls

4G means a whole new system will be needed to support voice calls -- but in the meanwhile UK operators will be relying on 3G.

We may have our own iPhone 5-induced 4G confusion to worry about here in the UK, but across the pond a different network issue looks like it could take some of the sheen off Apple's latest launch.

Two US networks -- Sprint and Verizon -- are unable to offer simultaneous voice and data capability on the iPhone 5, our sister site CNET.com is reporting. This is apparently down to the iPhone 5 lacking a third antenna -- which the two networks require to run voice when also delivering data.

A third US operator, AT&T, has a different network infrastructure, so iPhone 5 users on AT&T will be able to talk and download simultaneously.

Personally I can't remember the last time I needed to browse the web while in the middle of a phone call, but the issue does underline another 4G tangle that will need to be unpicked in the UK in future: how to deliver voice services over a next-gen 4G network that's designed for carrying data.

There are various options for carrying voice calls over 4G, which is part of the problem -- operators need to decide which system they will use for voice while continuing to ensure quality of service and interoperability with existing 3G networks (or risk dropped calls as people move between 4G and 3G coverage areas). The voice systems also ultimately need to work seamlessly with other 4G networks' systems -- to allow for people to roam across different 4G networks.

For now, here in the UK, operators can fall back to their 3G networks to carry voice -- an option that's apparently not available to Sprint or Verizon in the land of the free.

An EE spokeswoman confirmed to me its 4G network will be using 3G initially. "At launch, EE will be running voice over 3G," she said, adding: "We're looking into introducing VoLTE [one of the technical options for carrying voice over 4G] at some point next year."

EE's 4G rollout will only cover 16 UK cities by the end of this year -- and this very partial coverage is another reason it will need to keep using 3G to carry voice.

Are you super keen to get 4G speeds? Or are you happy to stick with 3G for the moment -- and wait until some of 4G's kinks have been ironed out? Let me know in the comments below or drop us a line over on our Facebook page.

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Phones
About the author

Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.

 

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