Apple is defending its use of the “4G” moniker of the new iPad Wi-Fi + 4G model in Australia in the face of complaints from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). In documents filed by Apple Australia, the company argued that it’s Australia’s networks that are mislabeled, not Apple’s tablet.
At issue is what can and can’t be called “4G,” a technicality decided by the International Telecommunications Union, which sets the marketing standards for wireless networks. That group expanded its definition of 4G service in December 2010 to include current network protocols with an upgrade path that could eventually allow them to reach speeds that would qualify as 4G.
This is the same reason that some iPhones now report their connection as “4G” in the U.S. on carriers like AT&T. The devices didn’t magically start supporting 4G LTE networks, but older networks were instead allowed to call themselves 4G.
Such is the case with the iPad, too. In the U.S., the new iPad W-Fi + 4G supports the LTE standard. It also supports the UMTS standard on the 2100MHz band (among others)—this is the wireless technology the new iPad uses in Australia for the three major carriers in the country. While this band can be called “4G” according to the relaxed standards, in Australia it is still marketed as a “3G” network.
Apple is essentially arguing that it’s not the company’s fault that Australia hasn’t kept up with evolving standards, and that its marketing of the wireless-capable new iPads as 4G devices is appropriate and correct.
According to The Austalian, Apple’s documents stated, “The descriptor ‘4G’ […] conveys to consumers in Australia that the iPad with WiFi + 4G will deliver a superior level of service in terms of data transfer speed (consistent with accepted industry and regulatory use of that term), and not that the iPad with WiFi + 4G is compatible with any particular network technology promoted by a particular mobile service provider in Australia.”
The company added, “There was at all material times information widely published in Australia which informed consumers that the iPad with WiFi + 4G was not compatible with Telstra’s 4G LTE network.”
In March, Apple voluntarily changed signs advertising the new iPad to stipulate that they weren’t able to access the LTE networks being deployed in Australia—those networks use a variant of LTE not supported in the wireless chipset used in the iPad. The company also offered refunds to customers who had bought the device.
We should also note that the UK has also questioned Apple’s 4G marketing for the device.
A hearing for the ACCC’s complaint is scheduled for May.