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

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

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.

Editorial standards