Apple’s Preferred Partner Policy Causes Outrage Among Belgian Carriers

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A recent ruling of the Belgian Council of Ministers target’s Apple and its practices aimed at protecting its preferred partners. They clearly state that smartphone OEMs cannot block 4G for certain carriers, as Apple currently does in Belgium (via ZDNET).

The situation in Belgium is paradoxical: Apple has a preferred carrier, Mobistar, and it granted the necessary 4G certification the other two carriers, Proximus and Base, had been after since last year.

But the main problem there is that Mobistar, Apple’s preferred partner, doesn’t have a 4G network, while the other two, Proximus and Base, have. Still, Apple denied 4G access to iPhone 5, 5s and 5c users in the country, harming its customers, as Base’s corporate affairs manager Coralie Miserque points out in a blog post.

The fact is, Mobistar has been Apple’s preferred partner since 2008. As a reminder, Apple has signed business partnerships with certain operators world-wide for the resale of its iPhones. These partnerships require these operators to sell a certain volume of devices over a given period, subject to the payment of compensation to Apple if they fail to reach the targets.

To all appearances, Apple is taking steps to protect its Belgian preferred partner by not agreeing to certify its two competitors, or at least by delaying the certification as long as Mobistar has not launched its own 4G network.

The carrier obviously applied for the certification process, but as she points out, after long months of trying they finally got a “standard” reply from Apple, saying the application was pending and required some time.

Apple’s position has resulted in an action not just from carriers, but also from politicians: economy minister, Johan Vande Lanotte, forwarded a proposal approved by the Belgian Council of Ministers that puts it clearly: smartphone makers must allow their handsets to be used on any suitable network.

As a result, Apple could face penalties for non-compliance, but some say this won’t change Apple’s strategy in the country: it has the money to pay that bill and proceed just as it has done before.