Network operators AT&T and Verizon Wireless plan to launch a version of Apples best-selling iPad tablet on their respective fourth-generation wireless networks, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Apple is widely reported to be releasing the latest version of the iPad in March.
Tablet devices and smartphones can be lucrative devices for operators who can lure customers with high-speed data plans; however, Verizons Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G network recently suffered three data outages in December, raising questions as to whether 4G networks are ready. Tablets like the iPad are also much more likely to consume vast amounts of data than traditional smartphones.
The paper interviewed Richard Doherty, director of research firm Envisioneering Group, who said an LTE iPad would test how well carriers' networks could handle heavier data use. "The new iPad will test carriers to see how robust their networks are," Doherty said. 4G networks are expected to generate even greater amounts of traffic, as their faster speeds will let users watch entire movies over wireless networks instead of short clips.
Analysts with IHS iSuppli, in a Jan. 31 report, said they now expect global capital spending on LTE technology to reach $24.3 billion in 2013, nearly tripling the $8.7 billion expected to be spent in 2012. In 2015, LTE spending is expected to reach $36.1 billion, compared with $9 billion on 3.5G technologies, ending the latter's five-year run. Revenue from 3.5G technology, the research firm added, is likely to reach $19.8 billion in 2013.
Verizon recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of its 4G service. Sixteen devices are currently available to run on the 4G network, including eight smartphones, such as the Droid Razr, and tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Consumer demand for Apple iPhones and Android devices on its 4G network boosted Verizon's third-quarter financial performance, company executives said during Verizon's Oct. 21 earnings call. The 4G network grew more quickly than anticipated, which is currently available in 165 markets and covers a population of more than 186 million, the company said.
AT&T on Jan. 31 shared that from 2009 through 2011 it spent $3.5 billion improving networks in Illinois alone. It deployed faster fiber-optic connections to nearly 625 cell sites, which in combination with Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) technology, enables 4G speeds, and launched LTE in Chicago. While AT&T is still catching up to Verizon in terms of LTE network coverage, consumers are increasingly relying on AT&T WiFi access to connect in more places from more devices, which the company recommends to save on data usage in their wireless data plans.
Connections nearly tripled in the third quarter 2011 (up more than 282 percent), versus connections made in the third quarter of 2010. Users now make 100 million AT&T WiFi connections per month, and WiFi connections in a single month now exceed the total connections made in all of 2009 and are five times the total connections made in 2008.