Even though newer iPhone models have support for multiple 4G LTE bands, which would allow them to connect to various networks around the world, buyers may not always be able to access some of these networks, as Apple has been actively blocking 4G networks belonging to certain carriers. ZDNet reports that the practice may get Apple into trouble in Belgium, where the company may soon be facing fines for LTE blocking, as the Council of Ministers has ruled that no mobile phone maker can block 4G access for any carriers.
Apple has a preferred partner relationship with Mobistar in the region, whose network is the only one officially certified for the iPhone. Competitors Proximus and Base do not sell Apple devices. Ironically though, Mobistar doesn’t even have an operational 4G network in place for consumers yet, while the other two telecos have already deployed their LTE networks.
The certification process for non-preferred carriers is apparently tedious and costly. “It was a true obstacle course; after months and months of (fruitless) attempts to approach Apple, Base finally received a typical Apple answer that the certification process was pending and would require some time. But how much time, the company refused to specify,” Base corporate affairs manager Coralie Miserque wrote in a blog post in November.
“It seems that Apple continues to protect its preferred partner in Belgium and refuses to certify its two competitors or at least is delaying the process until Mobistar has deployed its own 4G network. And this is not an exception, in other countries, Apple often grants its preferred partners 4G access months before anyone else.”
The exec said that more than half of the country’s 4G-ready handsets are iPhones, and added that Apple’s practice is common in other European markets. The amount of the fine Apple would have to pay in the event it would continue to block 4G access on its devices hasn’t been revealed.
An thread on the Belgian iPhone 4G blocking issue on Apple’s support forum has received over 450 replies and over 48,500 views since being started in early November 2012.