Apple has agreed to pay $2.5 million worth of fines in Australia because they called their new iPad “4G” capable. While the third generation iPad does indeed come with a 4G LTE cellular radio, said radio can’t connect to Australia’s 4G LTE networks because it doesn’t have the right bands. And in Australia you can’t get away with slapping the 4G label on HSPA+, whereas in America the marketing departments of the four major operators have utterly destroyed what the term “4G” actually means. So what’s Apple going to do now? The new iPad, the one with a cellular radio inside, is going to be rebranded from “iPad + 4G” to “iPad + Cellular”. Simple as that.
The bigger question is what’s Apple going to do as the rest of the world starts lighting up their 4G LTE networks? Here in Europe, 4G LTE works on the 800 MHz band in some countries, the 1800 MHz band in others, and a handful are on the 2600 MHz band. And while many European countries have 42 Mbps HSPA+, they don’t classify that as “4G”, just like Australia. There are so many different bands out there that supporting all of them is going to require Apple having multiple iPad SKUs, something that Tim Cook probably doesn’t want to do because it complicates inventory management.
All we know is that time fixes everything. Qualcomm is probably going to come out with a 4G LTE modem that supports all the bands that currently exist, though when said modem will be available is another story altogether. Maybe we’ll have one in time for the fourth generation iPad? We’ll just have to wait and see.
And one more thing, don’t be upset if you’re connecting to an HSPA+ network instead of a 4G LTE network. The performance of your iPad is the bottleneck, not the speed of the pipe feeding it data.