New iPad is LTE capable - but will NZ benefit?

UPDATED: The US band plan makes it unlikely for New Zealanders to experience LTE speeds on the latest iPad device

The latest version of the iPad will be available in New Zealand by the end of March – but will Kiwis be able to take advantage of its LTE capability?

At Apple’s announcement last week, the following download speeds were touted as being available to owners of the new version of the iPad – depending on the network capability of local telecommunication companies.

3.1Mbps - EV-DO

7.2 Mbps - HSPA

21Mbps - HSPA+,

42Mbps - DC-HSDPA

73Mbps - LTE

However there are no LTE deployments in the New Zealand market today and - even if there were - it's likely that Kiwis would still miss out.

Telecommunications consultant Jon Brewer (see comment below) points out that the US band plans for both 700MHz and 2100MHz LTE are incompatible with the Asia Pacific band plans for LTE. In other words, the new iPads that were launched last week may only enable LTE connectivity inside the US. "Even if New Zealand carriers were to turn on LTE tomorrow, the US model iPad with LTE would not work," comments Brewer.

But the 3G capability is compatible, so New Zealanders buying the new device can use it on mobile networks that have been upgraded to HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA technology.

So what speeds can users of the new iPad expect from the current networks in New Zealand?

Vodafone

Vodafone says HSPA+ technology is deployed throughout its network in New Zealand. “We currently have well over 100 sites using this technology, in urban centres and rural areas. Sites which are being upgraded and built under the Rural Broadband Initiative scheme also use HSPA+,” spokesperson Sarah Newcombe says.

“The maximum download speed for the sites is 43Mbps, note that this is the maximum theoretical cell site speed. Actual user speeds will be lower and will vary depending on device type, number of users, transmission speeds and websites accessed.”

2degrees

2degrees says its entire network is HSPA+ capable. “All parts of the 2degrees network are currently either HSPA or HSPA+, with peak download speeds from 7.2Mbps to 21 Mbps and peak upload speeds up to 2Mbps across the full network footprint,” says spokesperson Michael Bouliane.

The telco has its own mobile network infrastructure in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Queenstown, Hamilton, Tauranga, Whangarei and Wanganui. It has recently “switched on its network” – although it has yet to officially launch - in Napier, Hastings, Taupo, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Levin, Ashburton, Dunedin, Invercargill and Nelson. In areas outside these towns and cities 2degrees customers roam on Vodafone’s network.

Telecom

Telecom says it can provide nationwide 3G coverage today.

"Telecom is currently trialling LTE and, according to Brewer, is likely to roll it out in the 1800MHz band – this is because the band is free. He also points out that this is a similar LTE deployment to Telstra Australia."

But even with an LTE-enabled network, Telecom customers that buy the new iPad announced by Apple last week won’t be able to experience top-line LTE speeds because the New Zealand band plan differs from the US.

LTE plans

Telecom spokesperson Katherine Murphy says the telco is not reliant on the release of 700MHz spectrum to launch LTE services.

Vodafone says its LTE rollout is dependent on securing spectrum in the 700-900 MHz band. “Should we be successful in securing spectrum in this year’s auction, we will look to deploy LTE immediately.”

2degrees said today that “the timing of upgrades to 4G is something we won’t share with our competitors just yet”, however the company has expressed a keen interest in the 700MHz spectrum.

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