Apple's new iPhone 5 will never operate on future 4G networks that O2 and Vodafone are likely to offer in the future as it does not support the spectrum holdings the firms will be able to purchase.
This means that should O2 and Vodafone win spectrum in the auctions - as it widely expected to happen - the new device will not work on the advanced networks, leaving millions of consumers cut-off from the next wave of the mobile internet.
This is another major blow for the operators as its main rival, EE, which operates the Orange and T-Mobile brands is going to be able to offer the iPhone 5 on 4G from launch.
This is because its 4G services run in the 1800MHz band supported by the iPhone 5, after Ofcom gave approval to let it use this network for 4G services.
A spokesperson for O2 acknowledged the issue but said any customers affected over time would be able to change to an 4G-enabled device in the future.
"By the time 4G becomes an all-operator service and is available to everyone in the UK, we would expect a whole range of new devices to have launched that support all UK 4G network frequencies," they said.
"We will also be selling devices at the end of this year that will be compatible with all 4G frequencies so they will work on our network from launch."
V3 contacted also Vodafone for comment but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Ovum telecoms analyst Matthew Howett told V3 the operators did have some possible ways of working around this issue but it was not straightforward.
"The only real way Vodafone and O2 can utilise this iPhone 5's 4G capability would be to refarm spectrum at 2100GHz - the current 3G band. However this would require approval from Ofcom and assumes they have the capacity to do so - certainly not guaranteed," he explained.
Howett added that it may not be until Apple brings out its next iPhone device that the operators can finally tout 4G on the firm's devices.
"Perhaps Apple will in 12-18 months' time come out with a revision to the iPhone 5 which does support 800Mhz and 2.6GHz - by which time there will be more 4G networks using these bands up and running in Europe," he said.
He noted too that other flagship devices, such as the Lumia 920, do support 4G on both the 800MHz and 2.6Ghz spectrum holdings, which could entice some users desperate for faster mobile broadband services.
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