updated 09:00 pm EDT, Fri April 6, 2012
New iPad cannot use LTE spectrum in Europe
Despite moves by Apple to update its website and change marketing materials making it clear that the new LTE capabilities in the latest iPad won't work on most world LTE networks, the company may not have done enough to prevent an investigation by the UK Advertising Standards Authority, which says it has received 24 complaints about references to "4G" on Apple's website which are considered "misleading" and may launch a full investigation.
The problem, which has led to inquiries in other countries, is that although the new iPad is capable of using LTE networks, its radio can only received the frequencies used for LTE in the US and Canada, rather than those used for LTE in most of the rest of the world. The new iPad utilizes bandwidths of 700MHz and 2.1GHz which are the LTE frequencies in North America, but the UK and Europe use the 800MHz and 2.6GHz channels, as the 700MHz spectrum is in use for other purposes.
Thus, even when a country (such as Germany) offers LTE networks, the iPad can't utilize them. In those cases, it falls back to either regular 3G or HSPA+ (also known as DC-HSDPA), the latter of which is significantly faster than 3G but not as fast as LTE.
Apple's argument is that the iPad is sold unlocked and therefore still qualifies as a "4G LTE" device since it can be used that way in countries that offer LTE on the US frequencies. Thus far, however, that defense has not worked: in Australia the company was taken to court and forced to offer refunds to customers who complained that they couldn't use that country's LTE network.
UK mobile operators have been refusing to use the iPad's original marketing materials, reports Britain's Financial Times, and Apple has been seen to respond by sending altered material that refers to "ultra fast wireless" and "fast data networks" rather than specifically mentioning LTE or "4G." Normally, Apple has full control of what marketing materials and licensed resellers can say about the products. Many sellers have left up materials promoting the iPad 2 rather than risk garnering complaints or returns due to the lack of "4G" usefulness, but once the revised marketing materials have been distributed the resellers should be able to go forward with advertising the latest iPad.
The company likely compromised on the supported bands for LTE in order to avoid compromises on battery life, but this has left European and other global customers with access to LTE networks frustrated. Apple appears to be reticent to manufacture a custom version with an LTE radio tuned to European frequencies, and would rather wait until the technology to support more bands without compromise was available, which is unlikely to happen until next year at the earliest. [via Financial Times]
US version of Apple's iPad homepage