The ZTE Grand Era LTE is the newest addition to the company's Grand series, and is compatible with LTE networks across Europe, the company said today.

Apple's iPhone 5 is only compatible with a handfull of the 40+ LTE 4G network bandwidths that are availble around the world. Apple includes the 1800MHz band for LTE its iPhone 5 models – which is good news for EE as that’s the band they are using. However, there are 41 different bands being used for LTE 4G around the world, compared with 22 bands for 3G technology, and the iPhone won’t work with all of them. Crucially, Apple has left two bands – 800MHz and 2.6GHz – out, both of which are critical to LTE service in Europe and the UK. Indeed, 800MHz and 2.6GHz are the two spectrum bands that UK operators will be bidding for in Ofcom's forthcoming 4G auction.

At present, European LTE networks operate mainly using the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz and frequency bands and, unlike Apple's iPhone 5, ZTE's Grand Era LTE can communicate using all three. The iPhone 5, on the other hand, does not work on the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands, leaving it compatible with LTE networks in only a handful of European countries, including those in the UK and Germany.

Other smartphones that also support all three bands include the Galaxy S III LTE from Samsung Electronics and Nokia's upcoming Lumia 920. But Europe is still trailing the US when it comes to the number of LTE devices users can choose from.

ZTE Grand Era LTE

Supporting all three LTE bands in use in Europe doesn't just improve geographic coverage, but can also improve overall performance when an operator uses more than one of them. The 800MHz band's characteristics, for instance, make it better at penetrating walls, while the 2600MHz band has more spectrum available to operators, which allows them to offer higher speeds. If both phone and operator support both bands, the user gets the best of both.

The 1800MHz band lies somewhere in between, with better indoor coverage than 2600MHz. It can also offer higher speeds if operators have access to 20MHz of spectrum for both download and upload traffic, which is the case for Deutsche Telekom in Germany but not for EE in the UK.

The Grand Era LTE is a mid-range smartphone that is based on Android 4.0. It is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and has a 4.5-inch display with a 1280 by 720 pixel resolution and Gorilla Glass protection.

The phone is 8.5mm thick, compared to 7.6mm for the iPhone 5. It also has an 8-megapixel camera and 16GB of embedded memory.

Pricing was not announced, but the Grand Era LTE is due to launch in Europe by the end of the year and in the Middle East and North Africa in the first half of next year.

In general, LTE continues to make strides; there are now more than 100 commercial networks across the world, according to industry organisation GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association). The GSA also forecasts that 159 commercial networks will be up and running by end 2012.

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