This week’s unveiling of the new iPad has rekindled the debate over which networks can properly be described as 4G LTE. The iPad is the first of Apple’s market-leading mobile devices to be compatible with the newer, faster networks, and the technical specs for the iPad describe the cellular networks of both its supported carriers – Verizon and AT&T – as being 4G LTE.
You might ask, “So what’s the big deal? Aren’t all 4G networks the same?” Well, not exactly. There is a big difference in both the technology behind each carrier’s network and the resulting performance.
While Verizon is using true LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology for its 4G network, the majority of AT&T’s network is still based on HSPA+, which is a third-generation network technology. Although AT&T is planning to upgrade its network to LTE in the near future, it’s not there yet and LTE is only available in select markets. However, this hasn’t stopped AT&T from marketing its network as 4G or even adding LTE in anticipation of future upgrades.
But the true test of each carrier’s network is in their comparative performance. LTE has a maximum data transfer speed of around 72 megabits per second (Mbps), while HSPA maxes out around 43Mbps. That may not make much of a difference when you are sending or receiving e-mail, but it can make a big difference when it comes to streaming or downloading movies.
Another point to note about the latest iPad is that the new mobile hotspot feature is currently only supported by Verizon. AT&T is telling potential customers that they are working with Apple to enable this feature sometime in the future, but they are unable to say when that might be.
When you factor in faster speeds, the hotspot feature, and the more widely available Verizon network, then it becomes clear there is still a preferred option when it comes to the iPad and every other mobile device. That’s Verizon, the only true 4G LTE network.
I have been compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.