One of the biggest hype factors of the new iPhone 12 devices is 5G. From the entry-level Mini to the flagship Pro Max, all the new devices have next-gen connectivity. But unlike in the United States, Australian iPhone 12 devices can’t use the fastest form of 5G.
iPhone 12 5G
Here in Australia, telcos are rolling out 3.5GHz 5G. This is a mid-band frequency that is sometimes referred to as Sub 6. iPhone 12 devices can use this in Australia, but this isn’t actually an ideal outcome.
This is because mmWave 5G will also be rolled out in Australia in the coming years. This is an high frequency band that starts at 26GHz. Put very simply, it’s a lot faster.
While the iPhone 12 is compatible with mmWave 5G, it’s a feature exclusive to devices sold in the United States. This means that none of the iPhone 12 models being sold in Australia — or anywhere outside the US — can use mmWave 5G.
mmWave 5G in Australia
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a huge deal right now. Australia doesn’t have access to mmWave 5G yet, though it might do next year. Back in 2019 the Australian Government announced the 26GHz spectrum auction for early 2021. This essentially means that companies such as telcos will be able to bid on the amount of mmWave spectrum they will be able to access for their networks.
And back in August of 2020 the government further announced what the spectrum allocation limits would be. In theory, this is to prevent any single company getting a monopoly of the spectrum.
“I have directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority to set allocation limits of 1 GHz,” Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher said in a press release.
“This decision was informed by advice and analysis from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and aligns with the Government’s communications policy objectives.”
There is still no hard date set for the mmWave spectrum auction, though it is still pegged for sometime in early 2021. This means that we may not see the 26GHz band go live for users until much later in the year, or perhaps even 2022.
For comparison, when the first 3.5GHz spectrum went to auction at the end of 2018, it didn’t become actively available until May 2019.
So why does this matter then?
Some may argue that the lack of mmWave 5G functionality on Australian iPhone 12 devices doesn’t really matter. After all, it’s not available here yet and may not be for another year. And that’s a perfectly valid stance.
But I would counter that with the notion of future proofing. New flagship iPhones are never cheap, but they at least hold a lot of value. True, some Apple fans buy the new iPhone every year without fail. This issue probably won’t impact them — especially when the Australian 5G network is still in its relative infancy.
But other customers hold onto their iPhones for years, and rightly so. They’re good devices that last if you look after them. Apple knows it has a diverse customer base, as its been lowering some of its prices of new gadgets this year, including the latest iPhone 12 Pro.
So to deny customers the ability to access the best 5G Australia has to offer because they might not want to upgrade again in 12 months doesn’t sit right with me.
It’s grossly classist and reinforces a blatantly capitalist ideology, rather than putting the people forking over their hard-earned dollars first.
Disclosure: the author owns 12 shares in Apple.