iPads barred from country due to Wi-Fi specifications

Customs officials confiscate ten Apple devices at airport.

April 15, 2010 03:00
3 minute read.
Apple's iPad.

iPad Apple tech 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Israelis planning to buy Apple’s popular new iPad tablet computer may want to reconsider, as the Communications Ministry has banned the entrance of the product into the country.

The ministry said on Tuesday evening that the new product’s Wi-Fi specifications did not match Israeli standards and was not permitted to be used here.

Custom officials at Ben-Gurion Airport have been instructed to confiscate iPads from incoming travelers and according to Communications Ministry officials, 10 devices have been confiscated from passengers who passed through the “red line” at customs, declaring they had them in their possession.

“Just to be clear, we have nothing against the iPad specifically and would like to see it introduced to Israel,” said Nati Shubert, the senior deputy director general of spectrum management at the ministry. “There are thousands of new products that come out every year. It is our job to make sure that they meet the Israeli standards. From inquiries we made with the United States Federal Communications Commission, we determined that the Wi-Fi specifications of the device was set to the American standard and not the European standard, which is the one the Israeli standard is based on. The moment Apple markets a device that meets the specifications, we will be happy to approve it.”

Shubert likened the problem of standards to road safety issues.

“Traffic can flow smoothly on the road as long as everyone obeys the traffic laws. It’s the same thing with wireless communications. All we want is to prevent disruptions, and since the American specifications allow higher broadcast levels, introducing them here on a large scale would cause disruptions to the network.”

The Communications Ministry has come under criticism for not alerting consumers to the problem earlier.

Chaim Zagoury, the owner of I-phone Israel, an importer of Apple devices, said he has received many calls from people interested in buying the iPad.

“Thankfully, I haven’t ordered any yet, but I know of many other people who have. Now, they’re in trouble. They are either stuck with stock that nobody will buy until things clear up, or they are waiting for the devices to arrive and praying they are not confiscated in customs’” he said.

“It’s annoying that they didn’t say anything sooner,” said Keren Arush, who recently bought an iPad for her niece’s bat mitzva. “They could have anticipated that people would rush to buy them, seeing how popular they are abroad. Now I’m worried that she won’t get her present.”

Shubert said the ministry was not so much worried about individuals bringing the device in for their own use, but rather the big importers. “In small amounts the disruptions to the network may be negligible, but if they are brought in on a large scale, it risks harming the system,” Shubert said.

“I know Israelis and I know that not everybody rushes to declare they are bringing in an electronic device. I imagine they’ll find ways to smuggle the iPads in regardless. We have already contacted Apple’s licensed distributors in Israel, I-Digital, to receive all the information that will allow us to authorize its entrance.”

Apple has already announced that it will sell the iPad in European countries, so it is probably only a matter of time before the Wi-Fi specifications are adjusted and the devices are allowed into the country.

People considering bringing in the device without declaring it to customs officials should know that the fine for not declaring it is NIS 650 as well as 16% value-added tax.

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