You may be surprised to learn that the term “4G” is actually not a term that has any guaranteed meaning. It describes a type of network, of course, but it doesn’t exist in all nations and, in nations where it does exist, the meaning isn’t always consistent. Case in point: the UK. People who purchased the Apple iPad 3 will find that they cannot get 4G service in the UK. Why? Because it doesn’t exist in the UK.

What’s the Frequency?

The term 4G varies, among other things, in terms of what frequencies it describes. The iPad 3 listens for 4G networks on the 700MHz spectrum. This works well for the US and Canada, but radio frequencies are allocated differently in different nations. In the UK, that spectrum is used for digital television. The 4G spectrum that Apple iPad 3′s are looking for is simply not available in the UK, so you’re not going to be able to use these services in that nation.

How Bad is the Problem?

It’s bad. Consumer who were irked by the advertising for the iPad in the UK, which boasted its 4G speeds, have filed official complaints about the advertisements, which they allege were misleading. The same has happened in Australia. The contention is that the fact that Apple advertised 4G services in a nation where they didn’t exist was deliberately misleading the public. These advertisements claimed that you could get 4G anywhere in the world, which is clearly not the case.

There are also issues with whether or not the iPad’s technology will work with the 4G networks that are planned for the UK. The Daily Mail reported that the 4G network in England won’t be available until the end of 2012, at the earliest. The network will use that different part of the spectrum that applies to the UK and, because of that, it’s not even certain that you could use the device in England, at least not as they’ve been advertised. The iPad also supports the 2100MHz frequency spectrum but, like the 700MHz spectrum, those frequencies are not being considered for allocation to 4G networks.

Workarounds

You may be able to get service if you load a 3G SIM card into your iPad. This workaround has been reported to work in some nations, but not in others. This will require getting another SIM card, of course, as your North American carrier will have supplied you with a 4G version of the SIM.

Remember that you’ll need a SIM from the UK to make this workaround work. A SIM from the US will be incompatible, so be sure that you look into getting a SIM when you get to the UK.

It remains to be seen what will happen with 4G in the UK. Unfortunately, it’s likely that Apple will have an entirely new generation of iPads available before 4G service is added in the UK and that, of course, means that customers who bought iPad 3s may never get to use them on a UK carrier at 4G speeds.

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