Israel bans imports of Apple iPad

Thu, 04/15/2010 - 8:00am
Karoun Demerjian, The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel has banned imports of Apple’s hottest new product, the iPad, citing concerns that the strength of its wireless receivers and transmitters are incompatible with national standards and could disrupt other wireless devices.

Customs officials said Thursday they have already confiscated about 10 iPads since Israel announced the new regulations this week.

The blanket ban prevents anyone – even tourists – from bringing an iPad into Israel until officials certify that the computers comply with local transmitter standards.

Presently, the iPad is only available for sale in the U.S. Apple announced on Wednesday that it would delay international pricing and sales until May 10 – a date that is expected to include several European countries, but not Israel.

Israeli officials said the ban has nothing to do with trade and is simply a precaution to assure that the iPad doesn't disrupt service for wireless devices already in use in Israel.

"If you operate equipment in a frequency band which is different from the others that operate on that frequency band, then there will be interference," said Nati Schubert, a senior deputy director for the Communications Ministry. "We don't care where people buy their equipment ... but without regulation, you would have chaos."

The U.S. FCC allows Wi-Fi broadcasting at higher power levels than are allowed in Europe and Israel – meaning that the stronger signal could consume too much bandwidth, or throw off others' wireless connections, according to Schubert.

Although Israeli standards are similar to those in many European nations, Israel is the only country so far to officially ban imports.

Schubert said he expects the problem to be resolved as Apple moves closer to officially releasing the iPad for international sale.

In the meantime, confiscated iPads will be held by customs – for a daily storage fee – until their owners depart the country or ship the gadgets back to the U.S. at their own expense.

Apple's chief distributor in Israel, iDigital, declined to comment on the Communications Ministry's decision, and a message left at Apple's headquarters in California was not immediately returned.

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