|iPad 3 Will Come in 4G LTE, WSJ Confirms|
AT&T and Verizon to sell LTE iPad 3 according to WSJ
By SPENCER E. ANTE And JESSICA E.VASCELLARO Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. will sell a version of the coming iPad that runs on their newest fourth-generation wireless networks, according to people familiar with the matter, as the battle to cash in on big investments in mobile broadband heats up.
Apple Inc. appears to be planning to announce the latest version of its tablet computer in the first week of March, according to another person briefed on the matter.
Whether other carriers will also sell the device couldn't be learned. Sprint Nextel Corp., T-Mobile USA and Apple declined to comment.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the only two U.S. carriers that currently sell the iPad, and are also the only two that offer the fast, next-generation wireless technology known as LTE.
Both companies are banking heavily on LTE to attract new subscribers and to get existing subscribers to upgrade to more lucrative monthly smartphone and tablet contracts. Apple's new iPad, which will work on those LTE networks, would give the country's two largest carriers a device that could help drum up demand for the faster service, in the way the original iPhone dramatically increased demand for 3G wireless data plans.
Verizon Wireless, the country's biggest wireless carrier by subscribers, has invested heavily in its LTE network, which now covers more than 200 million people.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless's biggest competitor, is playing catch-up. Its LTE network covered 74 million people at the end of last year. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson says the network will cover 80% of the U.S. population in 2013.
The carriers have sold millions of smartphones that work with LTE, but coverage gaps and a tendency for devices to burn through battery power while hunting for the network have led many users to keep the LTE option on their phones switched off.
When LTE isn't available, the new iPad will default to a slower network technology, one of these people said.
Richard Doherty, director of research firm Envisioneering Group, said an LTE iPad would test how well carriers' networks could handle heavier data use. He said Apple's current iPad, the iPad 2, which works with third generation wireless networks, consumes on average about four to eight times the amount of data as an iPhone.
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.
"The new iPad will test carriers to see how robust their networks are," Mr. Doherty said.
Carriers are eager to move users over to LTE, because it handles data traffic much more efficiently than today's ubiquitous 3G networks, meaning it chews more slowly through carriers' spectrum holdings. Verizon executives estimate LTE networks are 50% more efficient than 3G networks.
Since its introduction in 2010, the iPad has quickly become Apple's second biggest revenue producer after the iPhone. In the quarter that ended in December, iPad and related products and services generated $9.2 billion in sales, about a fifth of Apple's total.
The launch of the new iPad will come roughly a year after Apple released the iPad 2. Apple sold 15.43 million iPad tablets in the quarter ending in December, up from 7.33 million a year earlier. Total tablet shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011 reached an all-time high of 26.8 million units, up 150% from the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Strategy Analytics.
—Anton Troianovski contributed to this article.