updated 04:15 am EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
Apple iPad not '4G' says ACCC, consumer watchdog
Apple has been accused of misleading advertising by Australia's consumer watchdog the ACCC over its promotion of the new iPad as having 4G capabilities, as no Australian telco currently supports the 4G radio in the new iPad. The ACCC plans to lodge an urgent case before a Melbourne court tomorrow over the issue. It aims to seek 'injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected.'
A statement issued by the government authority reads:
'The ACCC alleges that Apple's recent promotion of the new "iPad with WiFi + 4G" is misleading because it represents to Australian consumers that the product "iPad with WiFi + 4G" can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case.'
The ACCC also urged consumers to 'have a proper understanding of the mobile data networks which this iPad can directly access by a SIM card,' before they proceed with any purchase.
In the US, Apple has created two models of its 4G-capable iPad, one for AT&T and the other for Verizon. The new iPad for AT&T's 4G LTE network uses both the 700MHz and 2100MHz frequencies, while the Verizon 4G LTE network uses the 700MHz spectrum only. The only Australian telco running a limited 4G LTE network is Telstra, although this operates on the 1800MHz band. Telstra itself, and other European carriers have also made similar complaints about Apple's 4G marketing.
It is also quite likely, though unconfirmed, that Samsung Australia may have officially broached the matter with the ACCC. 'I guess consumers will, if they buy the new iPad under the impression that it is 4G, be soon disappointed in their buying decision,' Tyler McGee, Samsung Australia's VP of telecommunications recently told The Sydney Morning Herald. He argued that Samsung's Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G, now on sale in the country, is the only tablet on the market that properly supported 4G in Australia.
However, while on the surface the Australian government agency's case against Apple may appear to be strong, the definition of what constitutes 4G has become highly debatable, largely because of the marketing actions taken by telcos in the US. In the US, HSPA+ has long been marketed as 4G, when technically it is only an evolved variation of 3G. A true 4G network is technically supposed to deliver theoretical download speeds of 100Mbps by definition.
It is this confusion that raised its head in the recent switch from the iPhone 4S showing 3G on AT&T's network to now show 4G instead, following the recent update to iOS 5.1. At the time, AT&T stated 'The iPhone 4S operates on AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network and as such, it is only appropriate that people see '4G' on the phone when they are connected to HSPA+.'
However, in Australia, telcos have steered clear of calling HSPA+ networks 4G in their marketing. Telstra has had an HSPA+ network in operation for some time, which it has marketed correctly as 3.5G. It is double the theoretical bandwidth of HSPA and can support download speeds up to a theoretical maximum of 42Mbps. Although the new iPad can access data on the Telstra network at double the speed of the old model, Apple may have a difficult time convincing Australian authorities to accept the wider definition of HSPA+, which has become accepted in the US industry as a 4G service.
In the meantime, it is likely that Samsung executives will be sitting on the sidelines taking some enjoyment at Apple's discomfort, particularly as the two are locked in ongoing legal battles in the country over highly publicized patent infringement cases. [via The Sydney Morning Herald]