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Gadgets & Home Improvement

StarHub's 4G for iPhone 5 in test limbo

Telco may not get green light to start 4G services in time
The Business Times - September 20, 2012
By: Joyce Hooi
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StarHub's 4G for iPhone 5 in test limbo PHOTO: REUTERS

[SINGAPORE] StarHub customers might be able to get their hands on the iPhone 5 tomorrow, but probably not at lightning-fast 4G speed. BT has learnt that less than 48 hours before the iPhone 5 goes on sale tomorrow, there is genuine doubt at the telco over whether it will get the go-ahead to turn on 4G services in time.

According to sources that BT spoke to, there is a chance that StarHub is at least six to eight weeks away from getting Apple to sign off on enabling 4G services for the iPhone 5.

But there is also a glimmer of hope that this will happen sooner rather than later, such are the vagaries of dealing with Apple.

Meanwhile, tests for the handset are being carried out on its network - a process that involves both StarHub and Apple. StarHub was the only local telco missing from Apple's list of supported 4G networks when the iPhone 5 was launched last week.

Since then, only M1 and SingTel have been able to confirm that they will be offering the handset on the 4G network come tomorrow.

Globally, StarHub is not the only telco in a 4G-iPhone 5 pickle. In Hong Kong, SmarTone was the only telco to get Apple's 4G endorsement for the iPhone 5, but rival telcos CSL and Hutchison Telecommunications came out to say that they will also start selling the handset tomorrow.

CSL's position appears to be similar to StarHub's in that both telcos have infrastructure in place that should support the handset's specs, but both have been held up by the testing process. Reports state that CSL has submitted its own network-testing application to Apple, but might still have to go about a month sans 4G services for the iPhone 5 in the interim.

BT understands that a similar set of tests had been conducted earlier this year on StarHub's network but on a much smaller scale, which might have something to do with its absence from Apple's list of 4G-supported networks when the iPhone 5 was launched last week.

Incidentally, both SingTel and M1 are further along the 4G network rollout curve, compared to StarHub. SingTel's network already covers at least half of the island while M1's is nationwide - with the exception of the trains for now, which applies to all telcos.

StarHub, however, launched its 4G network only yesterday, with coverage limited to the Central Business District, Changi Airport and Singapore Expo. Coverage will increase to more than 50 per cent of the island by next quarter and be nationwide by 2013. The telco was also the last of the three to start 4G trials two years ago.

Over in Hong Kong, SmarTone's perceived lead in the 4G stakes post-iPhone 5 launch last week affected investor sentiment.

Punters pushed its stock price up 5 per cent the day the iPhone 5 was launched and punished Hutchison Telecoms by driving the stock price down 2.8 per cent.

StarHub's counter, however, has shrugged off iPhone 5 mania. Its share price rose four cents to $3.69 on the same day and has since risen another 2 per cent to $3.77, as at yesterday's trading close.

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