Europeans, Australians: Don't rush to buy a 4G new iPad just yet

If you're a European or Australian citizen, and looking forward to super-fast 4G speeds on your new iPad, you might want to think twice about buying the 4G-enabled model.

You can wait in line for days, and fork over cold hard cash you earned after months of scrimping the pennies together, and still walk away disappointed.

Why? Because you're in Europe or Australia, and that 4G-compatible new iPad you just bought won't reach those sweet, sweet 4G speeds you have been hoping for.

It just won't work.

There are spatters of 4G trials in and around the UK and Europe, but the next-generation broadband technology has yet to pick up steam in the region. Sweden has only just received 4G-compatible smartphones, after rolling out the technology over three years ago.

But 4G is a split technology, like VHS and Betamax, or HD-DVDs and Blu-rays. 2G and 3G are set standards, and run on the same band internationally, allowing you to roam from one region to another without having to use a different phone, or being cut off entirely from the mobile web.

4G can either mean Wi-MAX or LTE, with the latter being more common. And here's where it gets tricky.

Sprint runs Wi-MAX, while Verizon and AT&T run LTE. It makes sense for Apple to stick with its mobile network partners and appease the greater numbers. Instead of creating a third new iPad to accommodate Sprint customers, it left its 50 million odd users out in the cold.

But even though Verizon and AT&T run 4G LTE networks, they use different bands. Even though the two networks run within the 700MHz band, they are still a world apart from each other and require different sets of hardware.

If you're a Briton and are heading off to buy a 4G-enabled new iPad, you will be in for complete disappointment. The 700Mhz band in the UK is already packed full of Freeview waves, and has caused enough of a stir to worry up to a million telly watchers.

As The Register points out, the terms "2G", "3G", and "4G" have no legal definition, which gave way to AT&T's faux pas when it rolled out a fix in Apple's latest iOS 5.1 update giving HSPA+ users a "4G" logo in the corner of their phones. In Europe, we still call that 3G.

If you're in the United States and Canada, then great. Pick an iPad and choose which network you want it on: Verizon or AT&T. If you move house or travel to an area which has 4G LTE but is on a different network, then you'll have to buy a new iPad if you want your speeds back.

But anywhere outside of North America, you're stuffed --- well and truly --- if you want 4G speeds.

But not all is lost. Even if 4G will not work in your area, the new iPad still has 3G compatibility, meaning one won't be completely cut off from the mobile web. It just means you won't achieve the speeds you thought you were going to get.

And after all, the new iPad still has a shiny new retina display that packs in over 260 pixels per inch, and a bunch of other features that makes the tablet a tempting purchase.

But if I were to buy one, I'd save myself a few quid and simply buy a Wi-Fi only model.

Image source: CNET/Sprint.


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