iPad with LTE: what does it mean for SA?

The iPad 3 will support Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks but won’t be of much use in South Africa, 8ta and Vodacom have told MyBroadband.

This is assuming Apple’s roll-out of the device remains consistent with reports which indicate that the company won’t be launching a model of the device that supports the LTE frequencies used in other countries.

One of the sources cited for this information is the Apple UK store page for the new iPad (iPad 3) which suggests that the UK will be getting the AT&T model.

Of the two models announced by Apple earlier this month (7 March 2012), the AT&T iPad 3 supports the widest range of frequencies. Unfortunately, none of them fall within the bands used by many European countries for LTE, or those earmarked for the technology in South Africa.

8ta boss Amith Maharaj explained that the lower frequency 700MHz LTE band supported by the new iPad has not yet been allocated in South Africa.

“This band is currently extensively used in SA for television broadcasting. As such, Telkom Mobile will not be able to provide any indications on possible network deployments in this band at this time,” Maharaj said.

The new iPad also supports LTE in the 2,100MHz band, which has been allocated and assigned to operators in South Africa, but is being used to offer 3G services.

“Telkom Mobile has utilised this band to deploy 3G technologies and therefore Telkom Mobile cannot make any commitments in respect of possible LTE (3GPP Release 8 and beyond) deployment in the future,” Maharaj said.

Asked whether they expect Apple to come out with an iPad model that would support LTE in the 800MHz, 1,800MHz, or 2,600MHz bands, Maharaj said that they couldn’t comment on Apple’s device strategy.

“It can be noted that based on the current allocated IMT spectrum in South Africa and related existing technology deployments of all applicable operators, the support of a wider range of spectrum bands (including 2,600M, 1,800M and 800M) along with multiple duplexing modes by any device will be in the best interest of the South African market,” Maharaj said.

Vodacom’s head of communications, Nomsa Thusi, said that they are busy trying to find out whether Apple will launch a variant of the iPad 3 that will support other bands.

“At this point we will not support LTE on the 700MHz and 2,100 MHz frequency bands,” Thusi said. “The frequency bands that will most likely be targeted in South Africa are 800MHz and 2,600MHz.”

However, the iPad 3 will support South Africa’s 2G and 3G networks, so local users need not be concerned about the device’s LTE support not working here, Thusi said.

MTN, Neotel, and iBurst were asked for comment on this topic but they did not respond by the time of publication.

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iPad with LTE: what does it mean for SA?