Don’t expect that new iPad 4G to be 4G outside North America

The brief period where we almost had spectral harmony, seems to be over, looks the iPad 4G as being sold in the UK, will never work with UK 4G networks.

Yesterday the “New iPad” was unveiled. It’s an evolution of the iPad 2 with a “retina display” screen and more processing oomph. And an improved cellular modem, giving it faster 3G, and the even faster LTE or “4G”.

The UK has yet to launch LTE networks: the spectrum clearing and auction hasn’t got underway, but we do know that they will be running on 800 MHz and 2,600 MHz. (the 800 MHz provides great coverage, so good for rural areas, while the 2,600 MHz will provide capacity in cities because of smaller cell-size).

It looks like there are two variants of the iPad 4G, the AT&T (LTE at 700/2,100 MHz) and the Verizon version (LTE at 700 MHz along with CDMA support). Comparing the US and the UK specs, it looks like the AT&T variant is the ‘global’ one.

All the pages on have many caveats: 4G coverage is limited by carrier and by area. They make no claims for universal 4G availability. Only certain US and Canadian carriers are listed as supported.

Here’s the potential confusion though: the iPad 4G (as currently shipped) will never work with UK LTE networks. Our networks will be running on frequencies that the device cannot support. There is an outside chance that some carriers might reuse their 3G spectrum at 2,100 MHz – but the most likely to do so, 3,  recently ruled this out.

The same situation exists in Australia, where Telstra have launched their LTE network on 1,800 MHz.

The brief period where we almost had spectral harmony, or at least when devices supported enough bands to make it look like we did, seems to be over.

I would still buy the “4G” version, the better 3G support will make your browsing faster, and I like connecting directly without tethering to, and using the battery of, my phone.

By the time LTE arrives in the UK in 2013, Apple will have doubtless have launched the “New New iPad” and this probably goes away. But, if you’re selling a “4G” product in the UK, it’s not unreasonable to expect it would work with 4G in the UK.