Apple refunds Australia over fragmented iPad 4G promise

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] is in trouble, again, this time over its inclusion of support for LTE within the new iPad (3) -- and it's problem in Australia reflects the cold and hard reality that, despite the hype-machine, the 4G standard just isn't ready, yet.

[ABOVE: All hail the iMessiah -- iPad 3 hits Oz earlier this month.]

Europe is fragmented because of licensing

Look, I know I've said this before and while I so hate to dance across the hot coals of the path to a rerun, facts are facts and technology addicts truly need to get their heads around this matter. LTE is a big, big promise which unfortunately carries a higher degree of complexity in its realization than did the high-def DVD format wars of yesterday. That war took several years, too.

Please, I can hear US-based and some Asia-Pacific readers scream their denial at this assertion: listen to me -- I truly see your point. But moving beyond a subjective reading of reality, the facts about the fast mobile broadband standard speak for themselves. And these facts tell us most new iPad users won't be connecting to the net while on the move using anything other than 3G. And it will be the same for most iPhone 5 folks, too.

Why?

-- LTE is fragmented: there's multiple different 'versions' available out there (only one carrier offers 4G in Australia at this time).
-- LTE deployment is not universal, for example the UK 4G network spectrum hasn't even been made available to operators yet.
-- Even where deployment has begun, cash-conscious carriers, already reeling at the stark decline in voice call revenues, are choosing to deploy the tech strategically, aiming especially at large urban areas.
-- Many carriers will adopt hybrid models of combined broadband provision, using everything from Wi-Fi to Femtocell to White Space frequency solutions. Your smartphone will hop between these without you knowing it. This will help carriers control traffic on their networks in an attempt to deliver on existing quality of service guarantees.

Denial

These are facts. I recognize that some of my readers are somewhat resistant to such substances, but if wishes were stars the night would, indeed, be brighter than the day.

Yes. Things will change. The situation is not rubber-clad.

Carriers in the US and Asia-Pacific are accelerating roll out of 4G networks, parts of Europe are also climbing the broadband bandwagon. Some regions lag, some carriers won't invest until the cost of deployment falls, preferring to learn their good practice lessons from watching the mistakes made by first movers in the mobile biz.

It won't really be until 2015 that I anticipate 4G will truly become universally available. By that time the technology will have moved along, it will be cheaper to deploy on a per-device basis and battery life drain will be much reduced. Technology advances, don't you know?

Anger and Australia

Today though the prevalence of 4G devices in the US market is skewing the world view of consumers outside of that region. This is the problem Apple finds itself grappling with in Australia, where it has had to agree to compensate iPad owners for their disappointment that the 4G broadband promise they thought shipped in the box with the Apple tablet will not yet be realized.

As ever a note: those compliant lust-laden lovers of other mobile platforms will also need to learn that this isn't a problem unique to Apple.

Anyone purchasing a 4G device in anticipation of faster broadband would be well-advised to check if their carrier, or carriers they intend using when abroad, actually offers a 4G network. For some this will be a nice surprise, for others, well, don't shoot the messenger, but the fact remains, LTE is not universally ready for prime time -- yet.

The grieving process

Once we all pass through the stages of grief and move into acceptance of that reality, we may begin to be able to change this situation. This world is driven by our dreams, after all, and while in truth these transmit far faster than broadband ever will, that's another story we'll save for another day.

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