Ina Fried

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Verizon, AT&T Get to Duke It Out Over 4G iPad; Sprint, T-Mobile Stuck on Sidelines

Correction, March 16: AT&T said it is working with Apple to enable the hotspot feature, but it will not be available at launch, as initially reported here.

While Sprint has invested heavily to get the iPhone on its network, it’s not so fortunate when it comes to the new iPad.

Apple’s latest tablet will run on AT&T and Verizon, including their fastest new LTE networks, but won’t run at all on Sprint’s network. Nor will T-Mobile USA be offering the new iPad.

“At this time, Sprint is not a carrier for Apple’s iPad products,” Sprint said in a statement, while T-Mobile pointed to its lineup of Android tablets.

Meanwhile, Verizon and AT&T are no doubt sharpening their pitch to compete against one another for sales of the new iPad.

Verizon clearly has the more widely deployed LTE network, available in far more cities. AT&T, meanwhile, can tout that in spots where there is no LTE, its iPad shifts down to an HSPA+ network that is much speedier than Verizon’s CDMA network.

Both carriers say they are offering the same data plans they have offered in the past with the iPad. Verizon said it will support the new iPad’s option to act as a wireless hotspot to connect other devices to the Internet, while AT&T said it is working with Apple to enable the feature. There are a bunch of options for AT&T and Verizon, laid out on their respective Web sites.

Of course, with all those extra pixels on the new iPad screen and the faster connection, one will able to burn through those usage levels far faster.

Although both AT&T and Verizon will have LTE versions of the iPad, they use different bands and thus buyers will have to make a choice as to which model they want. Apple says both models will be able to roam internationally on 3G networks.

And, of course, there remains the option to forgo the cellular modem entirely and go with a Wi-Fi-only model that costs $130 less than its LTE-equipped counterpart. With past iPads, the Wi-Fi models have proved more popular, and it will be interesting to see how and if that shifts this time around.

While LTE capability is important in the U.S., most other countries have yet to build such networks. Apple is supporting a wide range of networks globally, including a bunch of different flavors of the HSPA networks common throughout Europe.

Correction, March 16: AT&T said it is working with Apple to enable the hotspot feature, but it will not be available at launch, as initially reported here.

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