Apple forced to drop 4G iPad claims in UK

Apple changes its branding to "WiFi + Cellular"

Apple has announced it will drop advertising claims in the UK that its new iPad has "4G capability", following pressure from the Advertising Standards Authority.

The "WiFi + 4G" tablet, which went on sale in March, is now advertised as "WiFi + Cellular" on Apple's UK site, with a disclaimer stating that "4G LTE is supported only on the AT&T network in the US, and on Bell, Rogers and Telus networks in Canada".

The move comes after it was revealed that the "Wi-Fi + 4G" version of Apple's latest iPad will not support 4G services in the UK, even after the 4G spectrum auction later this year.

This is because the device only supports Long Term Evolution (LTE) in the 700MHz frequency band, which is used to deliver 4G in the United States. However, when LTE arrives in Britain, the rest of Europe and many other nations, it will be delivered in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Apple's new iPad does support HSPA+ in all of the main bands, which in the US is described as 4G. However, in the rest of the world, HSPA+ is regarded as 3.5G, or "3G+".

"The new iPad supports many high-speed networks around the world, including LTE in the US and Canada and HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA in many countries," said Apple in a statement.

"Carriers do not all refer to their high speed networks with the same terminology, therefore we've decided to use 'Wi-Fi + Cellular' as a simple term which describes all the high speed networks supported by the new iPad. The advanced wireless features of the new iPad have not changed."

The confusion around the new iPad's capabilities has added to the consumer frustration over the delay to 4G in the UK. Ofcom originally intended to auction off spectrum at 800MHz and 2.6GHz in September 2008, but the auction has suffered repeated setbacks, and is now scheduled for the last quarter of 2012. This means that most operators will not be able provide 4G services in these bands until 2014.

Meanwhile, Everything Everywhere (the combined entity of Orange and T-Mobile) hopes to steal a march on other operators by refarming its 1800MHz spectrum for 4G services. The telecommunications watchdog gave its provisional approval for the plans earlier this month

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Sophie Curtis

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