x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Apple has explaining to do when 4G iPad arrives

Apple will be obliged to warn UAE consumers that its new iPad is not compatible with local 4G networks, amid concerns over "misleading" claims about the device.

The new iPad, launched this month, is not compatible with the 4G networks found in the Middle East. AFP
The new iPad, launched this month, is not compatible with the 4G networks found in the Middle East. AFP

Apple will be obliged to warn UAE consumers that its new iPad is not compatible with local 4G networks, amid concerns over "misleading" claims about the device.

One of the new iPad's key selling points is 4G mobile-internet, which runs at more than double the speed of other networks.

However, the iPad, launched this month, is not compatible with the 4G networks found in the Middle East. The device is sold on the grey market in the UAE - often at a premium to the US list price.

Upon the official launch of the iPad in the UAE, Apple will be asked to clarify the 4G issue to avoid misleading consumers, authorities said.

"We will ask Apple to highlight this in their point of sale, because that's fair for consumers to know," said Mohamed Al Ghanim, the director general of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). "We don't want to deceive the customer, at the end of the day," he added.

Several Middle Eastern operators have installed long-term evolution (LTE) networks, which are often marketed as 4G. The new iPad works on LTE networks running at the 700 and 2,100 megahertz frequencies, which are used by operators in the United States. But most of the Middle East's 4G networks operate at different ranges.

While it is still possible to surf the internet via Wi-Fi and 3G, users in the Middle East are not able to access the faster connections.

Mr Ghanim ruled out a ban on the device, and said he was hopeful Apple would create a version of the iPad that was compatible with Middle East 4G networks.

"There is no reason to ban the device. We are not going to ban it," he said. "The good news for UAE customers is that Apple should create a version that would work for the rest of the world … I'm hopeful that they will do it."

In Australia, the consumer affairs regulator on Tuesday accused Apple of misleading consumers, because the iPad does not work as a 4G device in that country.

Apple may offer refunds to Australian buyers of the new iPad, disappointed that the device is not compatible with local networks.

The situation is different in the UAE, because the iPad has not been officially launched here and is only available on the grey market.

Despite this, local retailers are not taking chances and are already warning consumers over the 4G issue.

Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer for Jacky's Electronics, said the retailer was informing customers about the 4G issue before they bought an iPad.

"If people are buying it expecting a faster network speed, it's not going to happen. We've been clear on that since day one," he said.

"We've been very clear in terms of informing customers beforehand that it says 4G, but it isn't 4G."

Julien Pascual, the chief executive of EmiratesAvenue.com, an online shopping portal based in Dubai, said the site was also warning customers about the lack of 4G compatibility.

"Getting returns is very, very expensive, given the margins we have on an iPad," Mr Pascual said. "It's important for us that clients are aware."

The problem with the new iPad may be short-lived, given that the UAE regulator plans to open up the 700 megahertz frequency used by the US version of the iPad.

"We are going to work with the operators to expedite the 700 megahertz frequency band," said Mr Ghanim.

"The TRA is in its phase to open it up for the operators to use … Then the new iPad will work," he added.

While Mr Ghanim said the 700 megahertz frequency may be opened up by next year, its use would depend on local operators launching 4G services on that band.

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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