news Australia’s competition regulator will tomorrow (Wednesday) take iconic technology giant Apple to court for advertising its new iPad tablet as featuring “4G” speeds — which are not supported on Australian telecommunications networks.
One of the key features of the new iPad is support for 4G speeds, which will allow users in countries such as the US and Canada to access the Internet much faster than the traditional 3G mobile broadband speeds which have become very widely used internationally over the past half-decade.
However, the 4G speeds which the new iPad supports will not be available in Australia, with Apple’s technical specifications page only listing it as supporting the 700Mhz and 2100Mhz spectrum bands, neither of which are being used in Australian telcos to provide 4G services. Telstra and Optus’ existing 4G rollouts are based on the 1800Mhz spectrum, although Optus is also planning a rollout in the 2.3GHz band. 4G is a term used to describe the next generation of wireless broadband services, which will allow speeds up to levels such as 100Mbps — far beyond the current generation of 3G services.
Apple Australia’s dedicated page for the new iPad currently states: “Designed with next-generation wireless technology, the new iPad with Wi-Fi + 4G connects to fast data networks around the world. So you can download content, stream video and browse the web at amazing speeds.”
However, if you click through to the features page for the new iPad, Apple has much more explicitly laid out what speeds the device supports in Australia. In the section about wireless speeds, Apple states the following: “The new iPad supports fast cellular networks the world over.2 So you can browse the web, stream content or download a movie at blazing-fast speeds. It also works on GSM/UMTS worldwide network technologies including HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA — the fastest 3G networks out there. You’ll see downlink speeds up to 42 Mbps with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1 Mbps with HSPA+.”
In addition, a minor footnote section explicitly states the limitations of the device in Australia: “4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the US; and on Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada. Data plans sold separately. See your carrier for details.” Recent tests have shown that the new iPad is faster in Australia than the previous iPad 2, due to its support for the dual-channel HSDPA standard, which is supported on Telstra’s Next G network.
In a statement issued tonight, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said it would tomorrow make an application to the Federal Court in Melbourne against Apple and its Australian subsidiary for alleged contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
“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 regulator said in a statement.
“The ACCC is seeking urgent interlocutory relief to ensure consumers are made aware of the correct technical capabilities of this device. Additionally the ACCC is seeking final orders including injunctions, pecuniary penalties, corrective advertising and refunds to consumers affected. Consumers who have purchased or are considering purchasing an “iPad with WiFi + 4G” should ensure that they have a proper understanding of the mobile data networks which this iPad can directly access by a SIM card.”
In my opinion, the ACCC is barking up the wrong tree here. Apple is clearly aware of the 4G situation in Australia and carefully modified its Australian advertisements and pages for the new iPad after the device locally to reflect the fact that 4G speeds are not available locally. I suspect that the ‘4G’ label is not prominent enough in the company’s advertising to attract the ire of the Federal Court. In addition, a swathe of articles have made the public very much aware that 4G speeds are not supported. In this, as with a number of things in the past, the ACCC appears to have not quite understood the niceties of Australia’s technology market.
Image credit: Apple