iPad Could Be Hobbled by Flaky ATandT Wireless Service

By P. J. Connolly  |  Posted 2010-05-20 Print this article Print

Apple's iPad with WiFi + 3G requires the use of AT&T's network, but in field tests around downtown San Francisco, eWEEK Labs found a noticeable hole in coverage.

One downside to the iPad is that the only mobile carrier it can be used with in the United States is AT&T; although Apple has a perfect right to partner with the carrier of its choice, users who spend a lot of time in locations that don't have very good 3G coverage from AT&T may want to save themselves some aggravation and money by sticking with the WiFi model.

In my field tests of the iPad with WiFi + 3G, I observed good performance overall from AT&T's 3G network, but with some marked exceptions to that rule. Generally, my test pages would load in under a minute from one location to the next at times stretching from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. But in one set of tests, what was decent performance at a certain spot at 5:15 p.m. turned into abysmal results when I'd moved about 40 feet up the street. Time after time, pages that just a few minutes before had loaded in seconds were still incomplete after five minutes.

Admittedly, that's specific to a busy street of downtown San Francisco, and one expects a degree of network congestion around 5:30 p.m. But I was in a fairly open spot by the standards of any city's downtown, so it may be that the only thing I proved is that AT&T's coverage in the first block or two of Second Street needs improvement. Nevertheless, I'm not sold on Ma Bell's mobile services, not by a long shot.

P. J. Connolly began writing for IT publications in 1997 and has a lengthy track record in both news and reviews. Since then, he's built two test labs from scratch and earned a reputation as the nicest skeptic you'll ever meet. Before taking up journalism, P. J. was an IT manager and consultant in San Francisco with a knack for networking the Apple Macintosh, and his love for technology is exceeded only by his contempt for the flavor of the month. Speaking of which, you can follow P. J. on Twitter at pjc415, or drop him an email at pjc@eweek.com.

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