iPad 2: Data Hoggin' Restricted to Wi-Fi
The iPad 2 arrives in stores in the U.S. on Friday afternoon, priced at $499 and up. FaceTime, which is enabled by two high-performance digital cameras on the front and rear of the tablet, is one of the most anticipated applications on the new device. The chat app will let users talk face-to-face with other iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Mac users but apparently only over Wi-Fi. (See Apple iPad 2: The Basics.) WiFi-only video chat? Like with the iPhone 4, it doesn't appear that Apple's carrier partners -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless -- are yet prepared to support FaceTime chat on their 3G networks. (See Video Chat: Meet the New Data Hog.)
Verizon is confirming that FaceTime will be restricted to Wi-Fi on its CDMA-based 3G versions of the iPad 2. "Apple says that FaceTime is designed to work on Wi-Fi only so it will indeed work on the iPad 2 for Verizon," a spokesman for the operator told LR Mobile Thursday.
AT&T said that adding 3G capabilities for FaceTime was a "software question" and referred us to Apple for the answer. Apple hasn't replied yet. It seems unlikely, however, that only one of the two major carrier partners will get to offer video chat over 3G. We'll update you if Apple says any different.
Adding FaceTime capabilities for 3G is clearly not merely a technical issue, however, since other companies already offer it. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) started a video chat service when it launched its High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) Evo 4G phone, which also runs over its 3G CDMA network. Video startup, Tango recently got $8.7 million in VC funding for its free calling app, which runs on the iPad, iPhone and Android devices on 3G and Wi-Fi.
3G: Captain Capacity Crunch? So why isn't Apple offering FaceTime over 3G yet? Worries about taxing the limited bandwidth available on 3G cellular networks may be one of the reasons.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) said recently that tablets generate about five times as much traffic as smartphones. This is even before video chat apps are widely used on the new devices. (See Cisco: Tablets Hog More Data Than Smart Phones.)
"Cisco VNI estimates that the traffic generated by tablets on the mobile Internet in 2015 will exceed the amount of all the traffic on the mobile Internet in 2010. The growth in the number of tablets, their larger screen sizes, their faster processors, and innovative video centric applications, like FaceTime -- should it eventually be available on the mobile Internet -- are all expected to contribute to that growth," said Doug Webster, senior director of service provider marketing for Cisco. Carriers would probably like to be able control the size of the video stream that users send over networks too. The new cameras in the iPad facilitate high-definition streaming but can be throttled back to a smaller size. Carriers generally already have compression techniques in place, but HD videos are much larger than the data streams that 3G networks were built to handle.
AT&T has already infamously experienced trouble with increased traffic generated by the iPhone and other mobile devices on its 3G network. The operator pulled together an additional $2 billion to spend on upgrading its 3G network in 2010. (See AT&T to Spend $2B More on Wireless in 2010.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile