Israel has banned imports of Apple Inc.'s hottest new product, the iPad, citing concerns the powerful gadget consumes too much capacity on wireless networks and could disrupt other devices.
Customs officials said Thursday they have already confiscated about 10 of the lightweight tablet computers since Israel announced the new regulations this week. The ban prevents anyone — even tourists — from bringing iPads into Israel until officials certify that they comply with local transmitter standards.
"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. Federal Communications Commission allows devices with Wi-Fi capability to broadcast at higher power levels than are allowed in Europe and Israel — meaning that the iPad's stronger signal could throw off others' wireless connections, Schubert said.
But some Israelis successfully got the popular devices into Israel before the ban.
Amnon, a software developer who legally brought an iPad into Israel but asked that his last name be withheld to avoid potential government repercussions, said he and other high-tech businessmen need the iPad to develop new applications for the device.
"There are several hundred people in Israel who make their livelihood developing apps ... and there are going to be companies that suffer, because they can't deliver the services they're supposed to be delivering," he said.
The iPad combines the features of a notebook computer with the touch-pad functions of the iPod. It went on sale in the U.S. on April 3. Apple this week delayed its international launch until May 10, citing heavy sales in the U.S.
Israeli officials said the ban has nothing to do with trade and is simply a precaution to assure that the iPad doesn't affect wireless devices already in use in Israel.
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 the international release.
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 messages left at Apple's headquarters in California were not immediately returned.