Apple seeks to redefine 3G as 4G

Apple seeks to redefine 3G as 4G

Summary: Apple is seeking to redefine Australia's 3G networks as being "4G", according to a new filing in the Federal Court.

TOPICS: Apple, iPad, Mobility, Telcos

Apple is seeking to redefine Australia's 3G networks as being "4G", according to a new filing in the Federal Court.

Not satisfied with getting corrective advertising and making Apple offer refunds to customers, according to a report in The Australian this morning, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is trying to push Apple to change the name of the cellular version of the iPad from the "iPad Wi-Fi + 4G" in Australia.

This is due to the fact that the new device, launched last month, does not work on long-term evolution (LTE) networks in Australia. It will work on LTE networks in the 2100MHz and 700MHz spectrum bands, but Australian telcos are using the 1800MHz spectrum bands at the moment, because the 700MHz band is still being used for analog TV.

In Apple's latest defence filing, according to the report, Apple states that it believes the 3G networks run by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone "are 4G networks in accordance with accepted industry and regulatory use of the descriptor '4G'".

Wait, what?

When it finally gets to court, Apple will no doubt argue that the HSPA+ service that is available on 3G networks in Australia could be classed as 4G, and has been marketed as such by T-Mobile in the US. But just because one company is marketing it that way doesn't necessarily mean that there is industry consensus on what 4G is.

3 Mobile in the UK, for example, was much more reserved when it announced an HSPA+ upgrade earlier this year. The company specifically stated that this upgrade wasn't "4G", but more like leading-edge 3G.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which declares these things, told me last year — in the neutral fashion that you'd expect from an agency of the United Nations — that although it is aware of telcos marketing their networks as 4G, the ITU hasn't actually declared any current commercial networks as being 4G.

The ITU has said that LTE-Advanced meets the requirements for 4G — for example achieving 100Mbps — but no commercially available networks currently meet those requirements.

Ultimately, declaring a network service to be 3G or 4G is just a marketing term. Given what we've been hearing from disgruntled customers lately about our telcos' current network performance, I'm not sure that the telcos should try to declare that their 3G networks get 4G speeds, although Telstra's does come close.

It will be interesting to hear how Apple intends to argue this one out. The full case isn't set to be heard until May, and by then we will hopefully have a better idea on when the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) plans to begin dishing out access to the 700MHz spectrum for use in the LTE "4G" networks that could potentially make this entire case go away. But I suspect that's still a long way off, and will only come to fruition as the next iPad comes onto the horizon — which will no doubt support more spectrum bands for LTE.

Updated at 7:45am, 20 April 2012: clarified ITU's stance on LTE

Topics: Apple, iPad, Mobility, Telcos


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Once more Apple is trying to change the world to their way of thinking. Is that not what North Korea, Russia and the Taliban do ??
    • Is the iPad 4G a device with a 4G chipset and accompanying firmware that has been shown to be capable of connecting to 4G networks that it claims to support where available?

      If so then it is a 4G device.

      How is this changing the world to their thinking?

      Has Telstra built a 4G network that is on different standards to the US - Yes it has - so maybe then the ACCC should be asking Telstra to rebadge their network because it is not compatible with all 4G devices.

      Does a 3G device work as 3G in all cases in Australia - No it doesnt.

      Much of Australia's network is not 3G and 3G devices are unable to work as 3G in many cases.
      • The point with the ACCC is that it is NOT applicable TO AUSTRALIA, which is the scope of the ACC's remit.

        If Apple wants to use the one box and advertising the same spec in all countries, then they need to make sure it is compliant with all of them. It is not up to Australia to bend over backwards to accomodate Apple's lack of due diligence.
  • Apple's RDF really needs to be unplugged.
    • The ACCC are the ones asking for a 4G device to be re-labelled as 3G - this is an ACCC RDF.
    • I am not saying that Apple shouldn't find a way to make the devices compatible in more territories if they can - but Apple has labelled the device's capabilities correctly.

      You could argue that they maybe have not put enough effort into educating the market - but they have not changed the truth like the ACCC are now asking them to.

      I am not happy that the new iPad will not work on the temporary 4G frequency available here - but this is no reason to introduce a lie.

      The issue here is spectrum allocation and Telstra choosing to jump in before the spectrum became clear - and largely for marketing reasons.

      This is not the first time Telstra has done something differnetly to the world and caused issues with device availability.
      • Telstra's 4G LTE network operates on the same 1800MHZ frequency as the majority of European carriers that support LTE. Apple obviously bases and designs its products to best suit American Telco companies.
        The frequencies which are being used by analog TV at the moment won't be available to be used until all analog tv transmitters are decommissioned and the government releases the frequency bands. This is many, many years away.
        It is unreasonable to think that Australian telcos should wait all that time before providing a 4G network, while overseas networks continue to improve and implement their own.
      • Why didn't Apple just make the LTE radios work on more bands? They have had plenty of time to do so, given that the same situation exists in European markets as well.

        It not like it would take much R&D to find out what would fly legally in Australia.
      • The ACCC contents that it is NOT labelled correctly for Australia and expectations here.

        If you do not understand the remit of the ACCC and Australian law then don't use non-Australian rendition of what 4G means as any sort of proof of anything. What legally works in Botswana or the US or Japan is not relevant in this case.
  • "ITU has not actuall declared what 4G is" - Not true. They have defined it precisely. See my article here
    • If you clicked through the link where I referenced that, the ITU said "The term '4G' itself remains undefined."

      They described the types of technologies that meet it but none of them are commercially available networks.
      Josh Taylor
      • No, actually 4G was defined earlier in the last decade, 2007 or 2008 I recall. Anyways, the ITU revised these definitions in favour of business that used the term 4G before the revision - obviously as a marketing technique. The definition of 4G is that the protocol classified as such must be able to transfer 1Gbit/s which LTE and WiMAX both cannot achieve however after the revision, LTE and WiMAX were classified as pre-4G technology and both protocols are suppose to lead up to actual 4G technology in the near future. In the statement released by the ITU, it still stands by its initial definition. As the ITU is not a binding body none of these standards must be used correctly so thus if a teleco felt the urge to, it can even call its GSM network 4G though it would be foolish for anyone to succumb to that ill-logic. Anyways, if anyone is interested, a massive discussion of whether the iPad or any LTE device for that matter should be classified as 4G is located on the "Talk" or discussion page for the new iPad on Wikipedia.
  • If G4 is not realy defined and not usable then the use of it in advitising must be misslieading by definition.
  • The only faster-than-3G network available in this country is Telstra 4G network. This isn't "real 4G", but "pre-4G" - it's not backward compatible with 3G, but is forward compatible with the standards set down for 4G. It should really be called "Next G", but they've already used that one...
    Telstra can get away with calling it 4G, because it follows the basic 4G standards even though the performance isn't quite there and the frequencies are not confirmed. It will become 4G at some point.

    Everyone who makes "4G" devices in the Australian market currently advertise them as 'for the Telstra 4G network'. I may well be wrong, but I've not seen adverts other than Apple that speciously make the "it's 4G" claim.

    The iPad "3" cannot work on any 4G network in Australia, because there are none. It cannot work on the closest thing we have to 4G which is the Telstra network because the frequencies are different from the US. Even if they made a Telstra 4G iPad, it should be advertised as iPad for the Telstra 4G network (similar to how they have done previously in the States with network specific iPads).

    There's no conceivable way that Apple should be able to market the iPad as 4G in Australia, when it's just not possible to use it on the only LTE network available, let alone any real 4G networks, which don't exist yet.

    Unfortunately it's a case of double standards for network providers and network consumers . You can label a network 4G because it's not compatible with 3G, it's much faster, it's future compatible with the definition of 4G and will become a 4G network at some point in time.
    You can't call a device 4G, because there's no ratified standard. The closest you can get is the "works on xyz's 4G network" moniker.
  • All Apple needs to do is state in their marketing info and on the packaging, that the 4G device is not compatible with Telstra's 4G network. Why doesn't the ACCC go after all the mobile phone manufacturers selling 3G phones that don't operate on NextG but don't clearly state that limitation? Apple is one of the few companies that, to their credit, made the iPhone compatible with both 850MHz and 900Mhz 3G spectra. It would have been great if they could have done the same with the iPad for the 4G spectra, but I'm sure that it is quite a technical challenge to do so in a single chip set at present.
    • Apple is the ONLY company that CAN make the iPhone compatible with both 850 and 900.

      All other manufacturers had been doing that for ages, unless they were exclusive to a network, which was the case for many phone models. Phones weren't invented by Apple, so do not try to make out that they were being magnaminous in catering for multiple bands.

      Most ads for outright purchase of unlocked phones do make it clear if it cannot work on NextG. The thing is that most phones have been sold and advertised by the Telcos themselves and often locked to it, so that compatibility with other networks was not a issue.
  • Hang on now. If Apple are wrong on this, so are all the Australian Telcos. So the question becomes why did the ACCC go after Apple and not Telstra.
    • They probably expected that Apple, being a BIG phone company, had done its due legal and regulatory diligence and made sure the wording on their box was legit for Australia.

      Obviously, they are not going to trust Apple in that way again.
    • Because Apple is being more misleading - Apple is supplying devices that only work on 3G here and not on the closest thing in Australia to 4G. Telstra supplies devices that can use the faster network. People who buy a Telstra 4G connection get better performance than a Telstra 3G connection. People who buy a 4G iPad get no better connection than on a 3G iPad.
  • Wow Apple.. just STFU...