Optical/IP Networks

Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

The new Apple iPad will have a 3G connection, but U.S. consumers won't necessarily get to shop carriers to pick the best deal on bandwidth.

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs made mention of the fact that the GSM-based device is "unlocked" at its launch in San Francisco Wednesday. In theory, this means that users should be able to switch to another GSM carrier if they prefer the service. In practice, however, users are actually stuck with a single carrier choice if they want the best wireless performance: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).

The problem is that the radio technology in the iPad -- like the latest iPhone -- doesn't support the way that the other major GSM carrier in the U.S., T-Mobile US Inc. , offers 3G. T-Mobile uses 2100MHz for downlink and 1700MHz for uplink. The 3G radio in the forthcoming iPad won't support the T-Mobile uplink frequency, according to the technical specifications from Apple.

Consumers could potentially use the slower T-Mobile EDGE network and default to WiFi for heavy-duty downloads but the operator isn't even confirming if it will support this yet. "This is actually a question for Apple, as it's their product," a T-Mobile spokeswoman told Unstrung.

It seems even less likely that Apple will deliver a CDMA-compatible version that will work on Verizon Wireless 's network. "I don't think they're doing one," a Verizon spokesman said on Wednesday.

Back to AT&T
So consumers can run the "unlocked" iPad on any 3G network they like as long as it's AT&T.

3G-enabled versions of the tablet start at $729 and the prepaid monthly data plan is either $14.99 for 250MBs worth of downloads or $29.99 for unlimited downloads. [Ed note: Unstrung has asked AT&T if there is any maximum download cap on the unlimited plan. No reply yet.] The device isn't subsidized, and AT&T has no revenue-sharing agreement in place on the data plans this time, unlike the original iPhone.

"I think the economics will be very positive," AT&T CFO Rick Lindner said of the iPad on the operator's fourth-quarter conference call Thursday morning.

There have already been questions about how well a major new broadband device will perform on AT&T's 3G network. The company admitted last year that it has already been over-stretched by 3G traffic in NYC and San Francisco. (See Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?)

AT&T, however, believes that the usage model for an iPad will be a bit different, somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone. This means more connections in the home or office, where the traffic can be off-loaded to WiFi, rather than on-the-move connectivity patterns like the iPhone.

AT&T has been steadily ramping up its WiFi hotspot network since it bought Wayport in December 2008. AT&T reported Wednesday that its customers made 85.5 million connections to the Internet in 2009 using AT&T’s WiFi network, four times the number of WiFi connections made in 2008. (See 85M AT&T WiFi Connections.)

Nonetheless, AT&T is still planning to spend big bucks on its 3G network in 2010, even if iPad users do turn out to be big WiFi fans. The company still added 3.1 million iPhone users in the fourth quarter and is launching a range of Android phones in 2010. The operator said that it will spend an additional $2 billion deploying and upgrading wireless in 2010, making its projected capex spend between $18 billion and $19 billion. (See AT&T to Spend $2B More on Wireless in 2010.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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AnalyzeThis 12/5/2012 | 4:43:58 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

Verizon should just sell this with handheld flip phones designed to transmit a wifi field. No one did that and that was the answer to the IPhone also as the IPOD Touch is the same thing as the IPhone will wifi only and a lot less money. This is easily possible with a WinMo phone but why have that when you don't need it for browsing?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:43:57 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

I could see this being a cool device on Verizon's LTE network, whenever they actually get a significant footprint up and running.

Double-checking with T-Mobile again to see if they will support a Micro-SIM for the iPad eventually

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:43:57 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

That sounds like one more thing to misplace, for me, any way.

AnalyzeThis 12/5/2012 | 4:43:56 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

If someone wants an IPAD though they wouldn't need AT&T if they create a WiFi transmit field with their phone. Thats the way around AT&T. I assume this thing won't tether that would be too easy.

blogndog 12/5/2012 | 4:43:54 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

Yes, if you are one of the small percentage of Apple users living in the USA, then you only have one choice of carrier, making Jobs' announcement a 'myth'. For all the rest of us, who can choose from 2, 3, 4, 5 or ever 6 competing carriers, it's great news -- why do Americans always think everything is about them?

gayleP 12/5/2012 | 4:43:54 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

I for one, am not fazed by the new product announcement by Steve Jobs.  Don't get me wrong – I don't have anything against Apple, and I loved the iPod, but I'm not going to buy the Apple iPad. The iPod, the iPhone, all had people practically running over each other and getting payday loans, credit cards, to get some new piece of plastic from Steve Jobs.  I would rather buy a laptop, rather than go crazy, rend garments, stand in line and need payday loans to cover buying some plastic trinket I don't need anyway, than get this thing.  Tablet PCs aren't new, anyway – and they've never sold well.  It isn't the first time someone's tried it.  In other words – meh.  Let's just be practical.

blogndog 12/5/2012 | 4:43:52 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

from Apple's press release: "iPad will be available in late March worldwide". (see http://www.apple.com/pr/librar...

In other words, the announcement was for a simultaneous global release, not a "North America" release. For 99% of the potential buyers, the news that it will sold unlocked is significant, and that was the audience this information was aimed at.

And where in my post did I say that I was "European"?

phone doggie 12/5/2012 | 4:43:52 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

Why do all Europeans believe those in America only think of themselves and then proceed to consistently publish this or speak this to anyone who will give ear.  Very conceded. 

Also, this product is being released in North America as the article points out so, why would one think of Europe or its network providers.  When the iPad launches in Europe feel free to publish all your thoughts about the European version and please stop being so conceded; it's a waste of time and very much beneath most of humanity. 

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:41:44 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

Now coming April 3rd, WiFi only, US only, global release later in April.


joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:39:41 PM
re: Apple's iPad: Unlocking the 3G Myth

Still feel it was a ridiculous article now that they delayed the European launch til the end of May? ;-)

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