iPad 3 : Why your 4G tablet won't use 4G

09 Mar 2012

The third generation of the watershed iPad has just been announced to much fanfare. As expected the device boasts many of the anticipated features widely expected, such as an improved 5 megapixel camera, HD display and a beefed-up processor, which will be a boon to tablet gamers.

The other feature which is being widely heralded in the press is 4G LTE connectivity. While this is of course a positive development, consumers looking for a true 4G experience will likely be disappointed, at least for awhile, in the vast majority of countries in the region. This is because unless you happen to live in Japan, 4G LTE networks are running on different bands for next-generation mobile connectivity.

A sampling of the region shows the following bands in use:

Australia: Telstra - 1800-MHz
South Korea: Korea Telecom - 1800-MHz
SK Telecom, LG U+ - 800-MHz
Singapore: SingTel, M1 - 1800-MHz
Hong Kong: CSL - 2.6-GHz

While of course it makes sense for Apple to concentrate on 700-MHz/2100-MHz to cater to its North American home turf, most consumers are unlikely to understand that their 4G enabled device will not carry a 4G signal for now in Asia.

While this is an important distinction for the iPad, it is also likely to be a major source of confusion for the impending iPhone 5. The fact remains that 700-MHz is still largely used for broadcasting in several countries in Asia, while the 2100-MHz band is needed for 3G, and many carriers will tell you that there isn't even enough of that to go around.

Given the profile of APAC operators using 1800-MHz and the European ones using 2.6-GHz, Apple should strongly consider including these versions in their next release, and their competitors should take heed.

Marc Einstein is industry manager at Frost & Sullivan. For more information, visit www.frost.com/

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