iPad banned in Israel: Could the UK be next?

The Apple iPad is not welcome in Israel because it may have over-powered Wi-Fi -- customs has a pile of seized iPads to prove it

Flora Graham
3 min read

iPads bought in the US and brought to Israel are being stopped at the border, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

The country's Communications Ministry apparently banned Apple's tablet computer after its engineers decided that its Wi-Fi may be too super-sized to meet local regulations.

An official said that the iPad "operates at broadcast power levels compatible with American standards".

"Israeli regulations in the area of Wi-Fi are similar to European standards, which are different from American standards, which permit broadcasting at lower power, therefore the broadcast levels of the device prevent approving its use in Israel," the unnamed official was quoted in Haaretz.

Haaretz reports that customs at Israel's largest airport has a pile of iPads ten-high, which were confiscated from no doubt screaming and crying Apple loyalists entering the country.

The ban has prompted rumours that the iPad's pumped-up Wi-Fi could be the reason why its launch in the UK has been delayed until May, since it's possible we also have those low-power 'European standards'.

Wi-Fi devices in the UK are subject to power restrictions to minimise interference, according to Ofcom. The 2.4GHz frequency is a crowded place, which suffers from interference from a plethora of Wi-Fi gadgets, as well as with everything from baby monitors to cordless phones. 

But we think the delay is down to shortages rather than changes to the iPad hardware. We don't know of any hardware differences between UK iPhones and their American cousins, either.

We've asked Apple to comment on the Israeli iPad ban, and we're also looking deeper into whether the tablet could face trouble with Wi-Fi power limits in the UK. We'll update this story with all of the facts and none of the FUD.

Update: We've checked up on the maximum power levels for 802.11b Wi-Fi devices, and, although we're no Wi-Fi experts, it seems that the US allows for power levels that are a factor of ten higher than those in Europe. You can check out Ofcom's scintillating documents for all the details.

Also check out this Cisco Web page, which lists Israel's limits. They're the same as ours. Israel, however, allows fewer channels than the US or Europe. An official from the Israeli Communications Ministry told the Los Angeles Times that interference could be a problem with the iPad, saying: "If you operate equipment in a frequency band which is different from the others... then there will be interference."

It's possible, therefore, that the iPad could also be delayed in Europe due to an overpowered Wi-Fi antenna, but we won't have the same potential problems with interference. We can't say we're that worried about our iPad being stopped at the border, and plenty have made it over from the US already.

It's also interesting that the official reseller of Apple products in Israel, iDigital, was co-founded by Chemi Peres, a venture capitalist who just happens to be the son of Israel's president, Shimon Peres.

Update 2, 26 April 2010: Israel has now lifted the ban, following "intensive technical scrutiny" from the Communications Ministry. CNET News has the full story.