Psst. There’s a new iPad on sale tomorrow. A new iPad with 4G LTE super speeds, if you’re in the US. And guess what! Everything Everywhere’s 4G network has been given approval from Ofcom. Imported new iPad plus 4G equals win, right?
Unfortunately, we’ve got a little public service announcement we feel obliged to point out to would-be importers: UK models will also have 4G radios built in, but, even when 4G arrives in the UK, that new iPad won’t be able to use them.
Who needs 4G? Not moi
Why should you give a damn about the new iPad 4G LTE models? They mark Apple’s first play into 4G connectivity, and probably signal that a 4G iPhone is next. And the speed really does matter. You know how 3G is sort of fast sometimes, but most of the time, it leaves you looking for a nearby Wi-Fi connection? 4G doesn’t.
Right now, O2’s running a trial in London, and the lucky participants are getting up to 50Mbps download speeds. Fifty. Many 3G dongles have a theoretical maximum download speed of 7.2Mbps that they never even come close to hitting. How much faster is 4G in real world use? How about playing OnLive on a park bench while streaming a HD movie fast?
So, imagine what a new iPad with 4G LTE in can do. Actually, don’t, just take it from the first US reviewers:
“I never saw the point of getting the 3G version of the iPad because WiFi is available in many places, and where it’s not, you could just tether to your phone. But I will absolutely get an LTE iPad. Again, it’s faster than most WiFi networks I usually connect to.” MG Siegler, TechCrunch
“In terms of raw speeds, I saw downloads hit more than 22Mbps, while upstream data topped out around an outrageous 21Mbps — and that was in mid-town Manhattan.” Joshua Topolsky, The Verge
Oh no wait, want.
Nice! But don’t you dare order a new iPad 4G LTE model for that reason. The 4G just won’t work here. You see, while the 4G technology used as a standard will end up being the same on both sides of the pond, the frequencies on which data is slung at frightening speeds won’t be. Apple is offering two iPad 4G models, one for US network AT&T that supports the 700MHz and 2.1GHz bands, and one for Verizon that supports 700MHz. (As an aside, it’s not clear yet which model will be sold in the UK yet for its 3G capabilities, but it doesn’t really matter either way.)
Now, that 2.1GHz figure might sound familiar to you: unfortunately, that’s the bit of the EM spectrum the mobile networks use for 3G in the UK (O2 also uses 900MHz for 3G, which has a longer range and gets inside buildings better, and Vodafone is planning to be turning this on too, but hasn’t done yet).
So yeah, no 4G for you there. And 700MHz is a no go in the UK because we use that for telly. O2’s trial run operates on the 2.6GHz band, with plans to use 800MHz once Ofcom auctions this band off at the end of the year.
We may see a UK 4G network before then, but don’t get your hopes up. This week, Everything Everywhere was given approval to refarm its spectrum, currently used for 2G voice and SMS, for 4G LTE, meaning it could get a head start on rivals waiting on Ofcom’s auction. You won’t though: it uses 1800MHz for that.
Do you see what we’re saying? The new iPad 4G LTE won’t work on UK 4G networks, period.
So what, do I just sit around with this poxy 3G for the next year? Great
All is not lost though. It isn’t unheard of for Apple to release new versions of lusty devices with a different radio in half way through their lifespan: see for instance the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 made especially for Verizon.
More likely however is the possibility that next year’s new iPad will play nice with European 4G LTE bands as these go online too. Vodafone Germany’s 4G network already uses 800MHz; the European Commission wants everyone to get on board with the frequency as well.
The new, new iPad with 4G LTE in the UK? We’ll take one of those. Although maybe not on Three; the way things are going with the Ofcom auction, it may not end up with a chunk of the good 4G spectrum at all.