Will the New iPad's 4G Even Work Here in the UK?

By Sam Gibbs on at

Apple’s just launched its next generation iPad and it’s been touting 4G all over the shop. Phil Schiller even called it the device with “the most wireless bands that has ever shipped." But will it actually work on the LTE networks we’re going to get here in Britain within the next year or two?

According to Apple’s vital statistics for the new Retina Display-packing iPad it’ll support LTE on the 700 and 2100MHz bands. On the face of it that’s bad news for us Brits. Our 4G plans might be a little way off still, at least the end of the year, but we’re planning on rolling out LTE on the old analogue TV spectrum, which pulls in at 800MHz, and the 2.6GHz band that’s already been vacated ready for 4G.

We already know not all LTE devices support all spectrum bands, otherwise we’d be running US LTE phones and tablets on the O2 4G trial right now. So unfortunately, if the new iPad doesn’t support different bands when it’s shipped in Blighty it won’t work on our LTE networks when we eventually get them. Everything Everywhere is champing at the bit to get LTE out there and, if Ofcom approves, it could even get coverage started before this year is out – well before Apple ships the next iteration of the iPad.

The good news is that Apple’s pushing HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA as well as LTE in the new iPad. In the UK at least one network, namely Three, is rolling out the HSPA+ update to the 3G specification. What that means is you’ll get theoretical data speeds of up to 21Mbps on HSPA+ and 42Mbps on DC-HSDPA (which essentially connects to two 3G towers at once for double the data rate). That’s plenty fast enough for a tablet on the move for sure, but it’s also just in theory. Whether we’ll actually get those kinds of speeds on the mean streets of the UK is another matter. Still, it’s better than nothing when there’s no 4G to go around I suppose.

Of course, by the time Apple’s recovered from its frantic updating of sites and stores in the next-generation iPad aftermath, we might find the UK specification differs. Let’s hope they add in our UK LTE bands just in case Everything Everywhere, O2, and our other networks get their collective arses in gear and get 4G up this year. Just don’t bet on it; I have a feeling Apple’s not going to care because we’re still all up in the air about when we’ll get LTE on the ground in Britain.

Image credit: gdgt