Apple wants to turn '3G' into '4G' to solve iPad 3 speed disputes

Apple wants to turn '3G' into '4G' to solve iPad 3 speed disputes

Summary: If you thought Apple had yet to go off the deep end, think again. In a bid to protect itself from legal troubles in Australia, the iPad maker is trying to define '3G' speeds as '4G' speeds.


Apple is currently in a legal dispute down under with the Australian competition regulator, but is attempting a novel way of digging its way out of trouble: by trying to rebrand what "4G" actually means.

Apple's iPad 3 doesn't work on any 4G LTE network outside North America. A few European countries have complained that Apple has misrepresented or misled consumers into thinking their shiny new iPad 3 could access the next-generation 4G LTE network.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is particularly displeased with Apple, and took the maker of shiny rectangles to court.

Apple eventually bowed down to pressure and said it would refund customers who felt they were misled by the 4G branding. It also promised to email customers to inform them that their tablet will not work on Australia's only 4G LTE network --- operated by Telstra --- because it uses the incompatible 1800Mhz band.

But as ZDNet Australia reports, the ACCC is pushing for the courts to force Apple to drop the "4G" bit from the name of the iPad 3.

Here's the catch: Apple's latest defence filing describes how the company believes that existing 3G networks run by Australia's cellular networks "are 4G networks in accordance with accepted industry and regulatory use of the descriptor '4G'".

Yeah; because that's going to work.

The iPad 3 will simply not connect to any 4G LTE network outside the U.S. and Canada, which the ACCC believes the name misrepresents what the device can actually do.

The reason being is due to the iPad 3 only working on the 700Mhz and the 2100Mhz bands of the mobile spectrum. Other countries have already allocated their wireless spectrum to other things --- like in the UK, the 700Mhz band is reserved for free-to-air digital Freeview television, and similarly in Australia, the band is used for analogue television.

UK customers are doubly out of luck, because the wireless spectrum designated for 4G LTE services hasn't been divided up yet. There isn't even a fully functional commercial 4G LTE network on British soil yet.

There's a simple fact here. Terms like '2G', '3G' and '4G' are not industry-defined; however there are clear divisions between them.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which declares what 4G is and isn't, has not yet declared any network to be "4G" yet, giving carte blanche to anyone and everyone to market their products as 4G devices. A 4G LTE network must reach speeds of 100Mbps, but not a single network has achieved these speeds yet.

Ask around, and most people will think '2G' to be GPRS or EDGE speeds, '3G' to be faster 'mobile broadband'-like speeds, and '4G' --- or rather '4G LTE' as it should be specifically called --- to be next-generation 'long-term evolution' speeds.

But 4G isn't just limited to LTE, as there are WiMAX networks too, which still offer blisteringly fast mobile broadband speeds, but are built on different hardware.

Because the industry jumped on the speed bandwagon, there are more divisions between 3G and 4G LTE, such as the middle ground of HSDPA and HSPA+ --- which for arguments sake is like 3.5G.

AT&T threw a spanner in the works by seemingly upgrading 3G-enabled iPhones to '4G' in the Apple iOS 5.1 update. Many were pleased, thinking that their existing iPhone would benefit from the next-generation 4G LTE speeds, not realising that it was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

Confused? So you should be.

The industry hasn't made this easy. The worry is that Apple will get its way and legally define the term '4G' as what should be considered HSPA+ --- or 3.5G --- and add further consumer confusion between '4G' and '4G LTE'.

A hearing is expected to begin on May 2 in the ACCC vs. Apple case.

The ACCC can fine Apple up to A$10 million ($10.5m) --- or three times the value of the revenue collected from the deemed illegal act. The worse case scenario for Apple is if the company fails to fork over its sales figures for Australia, it could be served a fine of up to 10 percent of its Australian annual turnover, which could easily run into high eight-figure sums.

Image credit: Instagram. Article source: ZDNet Australia.


Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPad, Mobility, Wi-Fi

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  • Given that what telcos call 4G (LTE) does not meet min spec to be called 4G

    It is still not real 4G no matter how you slice it.
  • It is quite unethical . . .

    . . . and I say that as an Apple user and iPad (3) owner.
  • Here it comes again...

    ...the attempt by Apple to redefine reality according to its paradygms...
    • In that respect . . .

      . . . they are no different that any other major business. However, on this occasion, they are trying to push the boundaries too far!
      • There is no so called 4g network that meets the defined requirements of 4g

        There is no so called 4g network that meets the defined requirements of 4g
    • As is Apple's typical M.O.

      ...blame everyone else...or tell them that THEY are wrong and Apple are correct...or simply not answer any questions.

      Still scum...even with Boy Wonder dead & buried.
    • As an iOS fan

      I have to say Apple is taking this too far. While there should be some sort of international standard as to what constitutes 2G, 3G, 4G, etc. speeds having Apple take lead on this is NOT the way to go.
    • Every Telco on the planet is also doing so..

      since no network on the planet meets the minimum requirement to be called 4G.. 4G does not equal LTE.. 4G does not equal WiMaxx.. 4G is a speed, latency etc spec. not a technology.. that's how it's defined... no network on earth right now meets that criteria.. initially the 4G spec was for 1000Mb/s, not even 100Mb/s... calling any current phone or any current network 4G is a lie.. 4G is a completely meaningless term at this point...
  • well just drop the 4G name in australia or anywhere else where it matter...

    It is not like people won't buy it because it is not called 4G?
    I thought there are almost no customer who wants to get their refund because they are confused.
    Stop confusing them and they are still buying your products because of your other attributes.
    It is not as if 4G is the dealbreaker in the new Ipad.
  • You know

    I had a friend tell me his iPhone 4s was 4G because Apple updated their software so their 3G iPhone often shows 4G as its connection... I had to explain to him that it was a bug because, Apple's iPhone 4 doesn't have any 4G network hardware installed for their Verizon phones.

    I guess, people have been allowing Apple to make untrue claims for years so, why stop now right?
    • My 4S does as well

      But in know it isn't 4G. Started after an updated a while back.

      Of course since you brought it up ZDNet has allowed you to make untrue claims for a long time to so I guess why stop now right?
  • And for his next trick...

    Tim Cook will prove that black is white and promptly be run over on the next zebra crossing...
    • HGTTG

      I think your HGTTG reference is a bit too high-brow for this crowd, wright_is... but I give you an A for effort. :o)
      • I was wondering...

        Doubly ironic, seeing as Douglas Adams was a staunch Apple supporter, since the original Mac was launched.
  • eventually?

    "Apple eventually bowed down to pressure and said it would refund customers who felt they were misled by the 4G branding. "

    I guess we define eventually differently. My understanding was they made the offer within a day or few of the issue coming up.
  • So, all the wireless carriers are saying they have 4G networks

    but they really don't. But that's OK because they aren't Apple. However, when Apple says their 3G gets speeds comparable to what the cell companies are calling 4G Apple is evil, disingenuous and immoral. Because they're Apple.
    • Sprint does

      They may have lousy throughput, but technically Sprint does have 4G
      • No...

        Technically their highest speed network is WiMax which is faster than people's DSL lines but not really all that speedy. Here in the Unites States, HSDPA+, WiMax, and LTE are ALL marketed by the carriers as "4G". Of the three standards, only LTE is noticeably faster than the fastest "3G" connection. Also, LTE is only faster in the markets in which it is offered, because outside those small but highly populated areas, LTE simply DOES NOT EXIST.
      • Not according to the ITU ...

        ... as stated in the article. The ITU is the standards body that says -- definitively -- what "4G" means ... and they have yet to say what that means, so, how can Sprint claim they have a true 4G network, when the ITU hasn't stated what a 4G network is?

        So, I agree with baggins_z: there is no definition, so anyone can claim that they have 4G and they're all equally right (or wrong), when judged against the lack of an ITU 4G definition. And that's ok ... for everyone except Apple, because somehow Apple's 4G claims are somehow more false than everyone else's ... even though there still isn't a definition against which 4G claims can be compared. Right. That makes perfect sense. As someone else mentioned, if they had claimed it was 9G (or even just 5G) they'd apparently be perfectly fine ... but not so for 4G, even though there is no such animal.

        Seems to me that the lawsuit is on shaky grounds: it's fair for consumers to be upset over the speeds; but if there's no standard that the courts can say "This is what 4G means, and that's not what your device does, Apple" that they really don't have a case.
  • Apple is not doing this on their own...

    Even in the US AT&T has redefined their HSPA+ as 4G... its on their website, they call all of that coverage in the US 4G, and thats not just for Apple products, its for everything they do... so I'd say Apple is just following whats being accepted in industry speak.

    If they want to get smart, they should just call it 9G and be done with it...