Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) gave the wireless industry the 4G device it was desperately waiting for, with LTE and 4G connectivity in the new iPad ensuring that new iPhones will also support LTE and 4G data connections.
Mobile carriers like Verizon Wireless (NYSE:V) and AT&T (NYSE:T) are looking to use a more efficient mobile broadband technology that will allow them to build higher capacity networks at lower costs, and a transition to 4G is just the ticket. With Apple now on board, it seems all but certain the rest of the mobile industry will follow.
However, that 4G connection will be limited to North America only, at least for the foreseeable future, so if you’re planning to use your iPad outside of the U.S. or in Canada, be prepared for slower data than you get at home.
In the United States, Verizon and AT&T have both used LTE with 700MHz bands but require different hardware in the iPad. LTE is unlike 3G and 2G in that it is highly fragmented with more than 32 different recognized bands. Verizon runs a single LTE network known as “Class 13, 700MHz,” between 746MHz and 787MHz, while AT&T runs two LTE networks in the U.S. One of AT&T’s LTE networks is generally used for 3G networking and the second, known as “Class 17, 700MHz,” runs between 704MHz and 787MHz.
U.S. network operators are lobbying the FCC to require that all 700MHz LTE devices support all bands, but have so far been unsuccessful. All 800MHz bands are harmonized across Europe and 2.6GHz are harmonized across the rest of the world. In the future, it seems likely the iPad will be able to support such bands, but not yet. For now, iPads will have operate on GSM network technologies like HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA in countries without compatible 4G.
Apple’s decision to support 4G connectivity will certainly help sales in the U.S., while helping decrease costs for data providers. Hopefully, operators will return the favor by slashing prices on data plans, thus encouraging consumers to buy 4G iPads rather than simply buying the less expensive Wi-Fi only models.
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