4G LTE Performance: Verizon Versus AT&T
One of the new iPad's biggest selling points is 4G LTE mobile broadband networking. The great news is that iPad 3 supports the Verizon and AT&T mobile networks. Both companies operate in the same band. Verizon mostly uses 746-787 MHz, while AT&T primarily uses 704-746 MHz. Apple can accommodate customers from the two providers with a single baseband modem (Qualcomm's Gobi MDM9600) by simply swapping SIM cards.
Based on our own tinkering, Apple doesn't appear to have locked its iPads, at least the tablets shipping with Verizon's service preinstalled. As shown in the video above, we can remove the AT&T microSIM from one iPad 3 and use it in another purchased with a Verizon microSIM. This is great news for anyone who owns an iPad 2 and wants to switch carriers.
For example, if you own an iPad 2 with an AT&T microSIM, you can buy a Verizon iPad 3, use the microSIM from your iPad 2 in your iPad 3, and still get 4G LTE mobile broadband networking. To be clear, LTE isn't available everywhere, and you'll have to fall back to 3G+ or 4G in some areas. Further, choosing a different carrier on your iPad 3 doesn't allow backwards compatibility. You can't use a Verizon SIM card on your AT&T iPad 2 because they use an entirely different cellular band and standard. Oddly, we couldn't get the SIM card from our Verizon iPad 3 to work in our AT&T iPad 3.
|Data Plan||AT&T (map)||Verizon (map)|
|250 MB per month||$14.99||-|
|1 GB per month||-||$20.00|
|2 GB per month||-||$30.00|
|3 GB per month||$30.00|
|5 GB per month||$50.00|
|10 GB per month||-||$80.00|
Mobile broadband subscription plans have not changed much within the United States. However, Verizon-flavored iPad 3s have a distinct advantage over their AT&T competition in that they're able to operate as wireless hotspots—a superior option to MiFi mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for travelers. Battery life is simply unbelievable; we were able to squeeze about 23.5 hours out of the iPad 3 while it was operating as a hotspot.