INTUG has sent a letter and a report (read the full text here) to Vice President Kroes and Commissioner Almunia outlining INTUG's ongoing concerns regarding Apples restrictive practices on 4G networks. Mobile communications technologies and services are evolving very rapidly, and INTUG members welcome the business opportunities which these developments are creating, especially through the availability of 4G networks and 4G smartphones in Europe.
The Apple iPhone has commanded a significant 4G market share in Europe as well as in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, an increasing number of organisations in the public and private sectors face business limitations and growing dissatisfaction from their staff, due to Apple’s current policy of exclusive mobile network operator arrangements. In Belgium, for example, the Apple iPhone can only be connected to Mobistar’s 4G network, whilst use of Proximus and Base 4G networks is blocked for Apple commercial, rather than technical, reasons. iPhone owners expect to be able to use their smartphone on their 4G network of choice, but this is being denied them on several mobile networks. A change in the law in Belgium is planned, which could be a model for action at European level.
Apple’s policy leaves iPhone users wanting 4G connectivity with no choice except to buy access from the mobile networks chosen by Apple, thus eliminating competition. In many cases, buyers of Apple iPhones were not even properly informed by Apple, or the reseller, of this unacceptable limitation in the choice of their preferred 4G network provider.
INTUG believes that both Apple and Apple iPhone resellers should be informed that, firstly, they have a legal obligation to properly inform potential buyers of the network limitations of the product which they offer. Secondly, INTUG believes that regulatory steps should be taken to stop this limitation of 4G network provider choice for iPhone users. This policy is incompatible with the Digital Agenda for Europe, the (harmonisation) rules with regard to spectrum, the rules with regard to international roaming and with consumer protection principles.