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Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
1/27/2010

The new Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad has the potential to be even more of a bandwidth hog than the iPhone, so can 3G networks cope with a new data onslaught? (See Scenes From the Apple iPad Launch.)

The iPhone maker unveiled its latest touchscreen creation in San Francisco Wednesday. The keyboard-free device looks like an overgrown iPod Touch and runs a reworked version of the iPhone operating system. The iPad supports both 3G and WiFi connections.

An unlocked 3G-capable tablet won't be cheap: The top-of-the-line 64GB model will run you $829 with 3G onboard; the 32GB model comes in at $100 less. Apple will charge $130 extra for 3G; otherwise, you buy it as a WiFi-only device, starting at $499.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs described the devices as "unlocked," but AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is so far the only announced service provider. Apple says that an unlimited data plan will run users $30 a month, while $15 will buy 250MB of downloads.

A network hog in the making?
Jobs has already talked up all the wonderful multimedia activities that will be enabled by this "third category" of devices, such as watching movies and playing online games. As such, Heavy Reading senior analyst Gabriel Brown believes that the amount of data that the iPad can pull down from a carrier network will be "about the same as a netbook," rather than a smartphone.

A single high-end phone like the iPhone generates more data traffic than 30 basic-feature cellphones, according to a study Cisco put out in 2009, while a wireless-enabled laptop generates more data traffic than 450 basic-feature cellphones. (See Cisco: Video to Drive Mobile Data Explosion.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has already admitted that it has had trouble supporting all the data traffic generated by iPhone users in NYC and San Francisco. U.K.-based mmO2 plc (NYSE/London: OOM) also said recently that iPhone users had brought down its network in London.

What could a popular device that generates significantly more traffic than an iPhone do to carrier's network? Independent technology analyst Carmi Levy believes that the iPhone episodes illustrate that carriers will have up to bolster network capacity over time to support more powerful devices.

"If the iPhone experience is anything to go by -- and we have every reason to believe that it is -- then wildly popular, data-rich mobile devices will become serious drains on network performance only after they've hit critical mass in the marketplace," he tells Unstrung.

"But failure to plan in advance for this new reality of high speed wireless access could permanently damage a carrier's brand in much the same way AT&T has suffered because of its iPhone-related 3G network slowdowns and outages."

Levy says the iPad could take up to two years to hit that critical mass. The device, however, is not the only high-capacity broadband device hitting the market now. Along with the iPhone, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Nexus, and Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) N900, there are a slew of new wireless-enabled notebooks and netbooks competing for bandwidth.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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joset01
joset01
12/5/2012 | 4:44:06 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


The specs suggest that it should run on T-Mobile, I'm checking that with them now.

AnalyzeThis
AnalyzeThis
12/5/2012 | 4:44:06 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


How about it finishes off AT&T because thats the only 3G network it will work on?


 


This was the subject of an AT&T press release last week about bolstering their network for as yet 'unannounced devices'.


 


 

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 4:44:05 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


They probably had to make one, but my guess is that actual 3G-enabled sales will be small... since this device doesn't seem to be about communications but instead about consuming content. Which you can do sitting down near a comfy Wi-Fi hotspot. Or near your "pocketspot" personal Wi-Fi device.


Plus it runs on the 3G 7.2 part of AT&T's net, which for right now is basically reserved for Apple iPhone 3GS and this pad... sort of like the 1K line at United Airlines. Room enough for the select few dumb enough to plunk down $130 for a 3G modem tied to a single device...

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 4:44:05 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


They probably had to make one, but my guess is that actual 3G-enabled sales will be small... since this device doesn't seem to be about communications but instead about consuming content. Which you can do sitting down near a comfy Wi-Fi hotspot. Or near your "pocketspot" personal Wi-Fi device.


Plus it runs on the 3G 7.2 part of AT&T's net, which for right now is basically reserved for Apple iPhone 3GS and this pad... sort of like the 1K line at United Airlines. Room enough for the select few dumb enough to plunk down $130 for a 3G modem tied to a single device...

tguch
tguch
12/5/2012 | 4:44:05 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


As a consumer mobile device, I am underwhelmed by the iPad -- it appears to be a large iPod Touch, and I agree that it will primarily be used in WiFi hotspots (at least in the USA). Where this device looks promising to me, is for the enterprise user. I can see companies purchasing this device for their travelling employees - execs, sales, etc. Would love to see the iPad spur new enterprise application development. Any thoughts as to why Apple focuses on the consumer end-user almost exclusively?

IPobserver
IPobserver
12/5/2012 | 4:44:04 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


Michael Mace at Mobile Opportunity has a take on productivity apps for the iPad


http://mobileopportunity.blogspot.com/2010/01/ipad-attempted-windows-killer_27.html


Not exactly the industrial work-flow or line-of-business apps you perhaps had in mind, but a nod in that direction at least.


The 3G pricing (module and service plan) is interesting. I can see people going for WiFi-only and using it on the sofa.


 


 

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 4:44:03 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


LOL -- "ensure traffic flows at appropriate speeds for each user." Just like it did for those iPhone users, eh?


I don't give AT&T as much credit as you do -- from watching execs like John Donovan dance in front of crowds recently you get the feeling that they are making a lot of this up as they go along. You could have played a Seinfeld-like drinking game for every time Donovan or Ralph de la Vega said "unprecendented traffic" during their speeches at the recent developers confab.


Toss in de la Vega's confusing comments about metered services back in December and you have a provider who is publicly unsure of how many devices it can handle -- and who also keeps selling new ones by the boatload. Buyer beware, I would say.

kaps
kaps
12/5/2012 | 4:44:03 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


LOL -- "ensure traffic flows at appropriate speeds for each user." Just like it did for those iPhone users, eh?


I don't give AT&T as much credit as you do -- from watching execs like John Donovan dance in front of crowds recently you get the feeling that they are making a lot of this up as they go along. You could have played a Seinfeld-like drinking game for every time Donovan or Ralph de la Vega said "unprecendented traffic" during their speeches at the recent developers confab.


Toss in de la Vega's confusing comments about metered services back in December and you have a provider who is publicly unsure of how many devices it can handle -- and who also keeps selling new ones by the boatload. Buyer beware, I would say.

lrmobile_MManzo
lrmobile_MManzo
12/5/2012 | 4:44:03 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?
The worry that AT&T wonGÇÖt be able to handle iPad traffic may seem relevant today, but itGÇÖs shortsighted. The AT&T network is constantly evolving, and with this evolution, the definition of GÇÿcritical massGÇÖ will changeGÇömeaning that even as more users of non-traditional connected devices like the iPad load up the network, the network will use policy management technology to direct traffic and ensure all users get what they pay for under the terms of their contracts. Additionally, offering the ability to use WiFi rather than 3G networks is a smart move; the ability to alternate between networks, in conjunction with network congestion management strategies, will ensure that traffic flows at appropriate speeds for each user.
ashalaginov@huawei.com
[email protected]
12/5/2012 | 4:44:03 PM
re: Will the Apple iPad Crush 3G Networks?


Not 3G will be crushed, but core network.

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