Apple on Australian 4G: You’re Branding It Wrong

Published on April 20, 2012
by John Paczkowski

Accused of misleading consumers about the 4G capabilities of its latest iPad in Australia, Apple is taking the country’s regulators to the mat. And it’s armed with a controversial argument.

It’s not the iPad that’s been mislabeled. It’s Australia’s 3G networks.

In a brief filed with the Federal Court in Melbourne, Australia, this week, Apple — which last month agreed to notify consumers that its new iPad is not compatible with Australia’s 4G LTE network, and to offer refunds to early purchasers who feel they were misled by its branding — refused to stop marketing the device as “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G.”

Its argument for doing so? Many of Australia’s 3G networks can reasonably be described as 4G under international definitions.

“The iPad with WiFi + 4G is a device which performs in accordance with the descriptor ‘4G’ in terms of data transfer speed,” Apple argued in its brief, according to the Australian, which first reported on the document. “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.”

In other words: No, the iPad with WiFi + 4G doesn’t support Australia’s true 4G LTE network, but it does support networks that are fast enough to be defined as 4G. So, no harm, no foul.

And as silly as that might sound, it’s technically true. When the International Telecommunications Union, which sets the marketing standards for wireless networks, expanded its definition of 4G service in December of 2010, it said this of the term 4G:

“As the most advanced technologies currently defined for global wireless mobile broadband communications, IMT-Advanced is considered as ‘4G,’ although it is recognized that this term, while undefined, may also be applied to the forerunners of these technologies, LTE and WiMax, and to other evolved 3G technologies providing a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.”

And if that’s the definition, Apple argues, then there’s no reason to change the branding on the “iPad Wi-Fi + 4G” in Australia.

It’s all semantics.

But will a court buy that argument? We’ll find out in May, when the case is expected to be given a full hearing.

(Image courtesy of Someecards)

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