Apple’s release today of a smaller iPad, quaintly called the iPad Mini, along with updates to its “regular” iPad model, is expected to have a dramatic impact on the still developing tablet market, which Apple continues to dominate. More pressing for Apple’s wireless carrier partners is the expanded support for LTE networks.
Apple earlier this year unveiled an updated iPad device that for the first time includes support for LTE networks, which domestically was limited to Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility. To support the two operators, Apple made a pair of devices, one to support Verizon Wieless Band Class 13 and legacy CDMA-based 3G networks, and one for AT&T Mobility’s Band Class 17 and legacy HSPA-based 3G offering.
This time around, Apple has added support for Sprint Nextel’s LTE network in the 1.9 GHz band that is also known as Band Class 25. That support includes both the updated iPad and the new iPad Mini. In a press release, Sprint Nextel noted that it will offer the devices with a “range of attractive data plans” compatible with its growing LTE network.
Sprint Nextel was added to Apple’s iPhone carrier lineup just last year and more recently was included in LTE device support for the iPhone 5.
Sprint Nextel currently offers just the Wi-Fi-only Motorola Xoom tablet directly to consumers, so no cellular data plan is offered. The carrier does offer unlimited data access to its smartphone users, but that offering is not expected to make the jump to more data-hungry tablet devices.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility had previously relied on prepaid data plans for their tablet devices, riding the carrier of having to provide device subsidies. Apple has already released set pricing for its latest iPad models indicating that the unsubsidized model is likely to continue. Both operators have recently switched to shared data plans that allow consumers to share a bucket of data across multiple devices. These include enticements to add tablets on a no-contract basis through low per-month pricing.
The cellular-equipped versions of the new iPad models are expected to hit stores in the “coming weeks,” according to Apple. With three domestic operators now offering the device, consumers will have multiple camping options for that day.
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