Why the new iPad won't be 4G in Australia

Why the new iPad won't be 4G in Australia

Summary: The most common question we will hear today apart from "Why is it not the iPad 3?" is "Why no 4G in Australia?"

TOPICS: Apple, iPad, Telcos, Telstra

The most common question we will hear today apart from "Why is it not the iPad 3?" is "Why no 4G in Australia?"

(Credit: Apple)

Putting aside the argument that long-term evolution (LTE) technically isn't "4G", Australia is in a bit of a unique situation. The spectrum bands being used for LTE deployment in the US are 700MHz and 2100MHz. The 700MHz band has been used for analog television in Australia, which the government is still in the process of switching off around the country, while the 2100MHz spectrum band is used for 3G services today. Telstra's jointly owned 2100MHz 3G network with 3 Mobile will be shut off in August, but Telstra said the freed up spectrum will be used for Next G, not for LTE.

The government plans to auction the 700MHz spectrum off by the end of this year and telcos will get access to it by 2015.

But Telstra was impatient and decided to launch its LTE network in the old 2G spectrum band of 1800MHz last year. Optus is planning to follow suit next month.

And while I'm told that there are over 14 commercial networks operating LTE in the 1800MHz spectrum across the globe, none of these will work for the new iPad, which, according to the specs published by Apple this morning, only operates LTE on the 700MHz and 2100MHz spectrum bands.

Even in the US, iPad buyers will need to get an iPad compatible with their network of choice — either AT&T or Verizon — as it won't work on both.

Telstra hasn't confirmed whether or not the new iPad will operate on its LTE network, but at this point it is unlikely that the iPad will run on any of the LTE networks being deployed in Australia right now. The good news, however, is that it is a temporary problem. When telcos get their hands onto that spectrum, we'll be able to get more LTE devices that work in that spectrum. Plus there's every possibility that Apple may look to allow for more spectrum bands in future product releases.

When asked directly whether the Australian iPad would work on LTE networks operating in 1800MHz spectrum, this is what Apple had to say:

The new iPad supports fast cellular networks around the world. It is designed with cellular antennas that access a larger frequency spectrum, giving you the most comprehensive support for networks around the world (including those in Australia) and delivering blazing-fast downlink speeds of up to 42Mbps with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1Mbps with HSPA+.

So in the meantime, Australian iPad buyers will have to be content with DC-HSDPA compatibility (which should at least allow for download speeds of up to 42 megabits per second).

Or there's the alternative of buying a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, which is LTE compatible in Australia.

Updated at 1:25pm, 9 March 2011: added comment from Apple.

Topics: Apple, iPad, Telcos, Telstra


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Not sure Telstra was "impatient" to launch LTE, but done out of necessity to offload data off its 3G network.

    The 700MHz frequency band is a mess in the US, so it may be the case that the frequency bands in the US at 700MHz are not the same as the bands that become available here.
  • on the AU online store, there are the following tech specs for the WiFi + 4G model
    Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 technology, Data only

    quite misleading.
    What if there's a Qualcomm multi-band LTE chip inside supporting 1800MHz
    • Hi Meffisto,

      Here's the stats linked to in my article (on the Australian Apple store) that indicate LTE won't be supported:

      Wi-Fi + 4G model: LTE (700, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
      Josh Taylor
      • there are no such specs when you click on pre-order
        • It doesn't mention any information about 3G or 2G connectivity on the pre-order page either. I would say this is because they've abbreviated it for the pre-order page.
          Josh Taylor
  • " But Telstra was impatient and decided to launch its LTE network in the old 2G spectrum band of 1800MHz last year. Optus is planning to follow suit next month."
    This is poor research , the UK for example is almost ceratinly going to kickoff 4G LTE on 1800MHz also see http://www.slashgear.com/uk-4g-lte-in-2012-says-everything-everywhere-23214887/ " UK carriers Orange and T-Mobile plan to launch a 4G LTE network in the country later this year, combined comms company Everything Everywhere has announced, with 1800MHz trials kicking off in one city come April."
    • Hi Harry, I mentioned in my article that there are 14 LTE networks in the 1800MHz spectrum worldwide.
      Josh Taylor
  • In GSA report (Nov 2011) it was concluded that 1800MHz is the prime frequency band for LTE rollout across almost all regions of the world, this also makes it easier for LTE roaming and build scale for device support. US's frequency band is the "exception" - and Apple had made a strategic decision in this case to serve its local market first.

    LTE is relatively new, there are 14 Live networks as of Jan 2012, but there are 12 more that is being deployed right now and at least 10 more than is in trial or planning stage.

    Suggesting Telstra was "impatient" leading to rollout at 1800MHz would be a wrong judgement.
    • Hi Henry, AFAIK, Telstra was the first to go in the 1800 (so they said at the time). And it is the widely held view in the industry that our LTE networks will operate in the 700MHz spectrum.

      Telstra has long called for the 700 spectrum to be made available earlier for such networks, so I think that is rather impatient. :)
      Josh Taylor
  • or there could be some real smart people there who could envision where the industry is going - and decided to lead the pack.

    (disclaimer: I dont work for them)
  • Josh,
    520-820 MHz is currently being used for australian broadcast television.

    1800-2100 Mhz spectrum is being used in europe and asia. .... much larger than good ol north america.... just a tad larger right??

    To state that a telco was 'impatient'? well... Euro/asia specturm... or wait for anologue tv to be phased out....

    Thanks josh.
  • Or get the cheap WiFi-only iPad 3, and use it alongside an Aussie LTE phone that can be used as your hotspot. Problem solved, and no need for that annoying 2nd data plan.
    • Hardly convenient:
      1) Turn on phone.
      2) Enable phone AP.
      3) Turn on iPad.
      4) Connect and enter password (first time only).
  • lol, SDR will kick their sorry **** es
  • becoz aussie are stupid.