New iPad Ushers in LTE Era

12:15 PM -- With tomorrow's launch of the iPad, it's safe to declare March 16 the start of the era of Long Term Evolution (LTE) in the U.S.

Sure, LTE has been around all year here from Verizon Wireless and more recently AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), but now that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s on board, 4G will get real for a lot of consumers. (See Apple Intros First 4G LTE iPad.)

I've already outlined why LTE isn't enough for me to buy the new iPad, but it's increasingly clear I'm in the minority.

According to a recent Light Reading survey, only 3 percent of our readers currently own an LTE tablet, but 15 percent plan to buy one this year. When we narrowed it down to just Verizon customers, 4 percent currently own one and 26 percent plan to buy one this year.

The survey was conducted before Apple announced the LTE iPad, but my guess is that most had the device in mind. After all, while only half own a tablet currently, 36 percent have the iPad 2. And Apple has already sold out of its pre-orders for its new version -- both the LTE and Wi-Fi-only versions.

Now, buying an LTE-enabled iPad doesn't mean you have to use the 4G connection, since users can choose whether to buy the carrier data plan each month or simply stick with Wi-Fi. And there are many reasons not to turn that LTE on -- the biggest being data caps. But if any device serves as the starting block for LTE, it's going to be the iPad.

It will no doubt be the most wide-reaching LTE device yet, and with its 2048 x 1536 pixel Retina display and 1080p video recording capabilities, it's the perfect one to showcase the power of LTE, as well as see how it affects data usage. (See Apple Intros First 4G LTE iPad.)

The wireless operators are doing everything they can to push LTE too. Verizon has committed to only introducing devices with 4G this year, and AT&T is talking up the value of tablet data plans for its customers. (See Verizon Goes All Out for LTE Smartphones and AT&T: Most iPads Stay Connected.) LR Mobile will pay a visit to the Apple stores in NYC and Chicago tomorrow to find out what flavor of iPads the loyal line-waiters will be getting and to be the first to personally welcome them to the era of LTE.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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