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The country’s two largest wireless carriers, Verizon and AT&T, will sell Apple’s new 4G LTE-powered tablet starting March 16.LTE is the wireless technology that provides data speeds that can be 10 times as fast as the 3G connection you’re used to. At times, we’ve seen LTE speeds on both AT&T and Verizon that were much, much faster than that.
So when it comes to deciding whether to go with the AT&T or Verizon iPad, it really comes down to the plans each carrier offers and where each carrier offers service. Both carriers let you pay month-to-month for your iPad data, so there’s no need to worry about getting locked into a contract. You can cancel any time.
Let’s start with AT&T’s tiered data plans. Your options are:
- 250 MB for $14.99 per month
- 3 GB for $30 per month
- 5 GB for $50 per month
And here are Verizon’s data plans for iPad:
- 1 GB for $20 per month
- 2 GB for $30 per month
- 5 GB for $50 per month
At first blush, it looks like AT&T has the best deal for the $30 plan. You get a whole extra gigabyte for the same price.
But — and this is a big but — AT&T’s LTE network isn’t available in nearly as many cities as Verizon’s LTE network. As of this writing, there are only about 30 cities with AT&T LTE coverage. Verizon’s LTE network is available in almost 200 cities.Both carriers will be adding more cities to their LTE networks throughout the year. Verizon just happens to be ahead since it started offering LTE several months before AT&T did.
Most users will likely want to get the middle 2 GB or 3 GB plan for each respective carrier. They’re the best options if you plan to do a lot of web surfing, emailing, and streaming of the occasional YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix video.
If you’re already going to spend $30 per month, you might as well get that extra gigabyte of data from AT&T. But only sign up if you live in one of the cities covered by its LTE network. You can check here to see if you’re covered. Keep your eye on that page because AT&T’s LTE network is growing quickly. If your city isn’t covered now, it may be covered soon.
If you’re not in an area with AT&T LTE, you may be able to access the carrier’s HSPA+ network instead. AT&T also brands HSPA+ as “4G,” but it’s rare to experience speeds significantly faster than 3G. Sometimes, it’s even slower. It’s not a good alternative to LTE.
For those of you who don’t have a 4G network in your city, your iPad can still run on Verizon and AT&T’s slower 3G networks.
Although you’ll get an extra gigabyte of data for your $30 with AT&T, it does you little good if you can’t take advantage of those zippy LTE speeds. Verizon’s 2 GB plan will still be plenty of data for most users, and its network is much larger right now. That’s good if you travel around the country a lot. You can check Verizon’s LTE availability here.
If you’re a heavy data user and plan to stream a lot of audio and video, you’ll probably want to get the 5 GB plan. For that, you’re better off going with Verizon since you’ll have a better chance of getting LTE coverage in your area.
There’s one final thing to consider. Verizon will be the only carrier that allows you to use your iPad as a Wi-Fi hotspot. AT&T won’t provide that option at launch, but it may in the future.
Only go with AT&T if you’re an average data user and live in one of the cities covered by its LTE network. Choose with Verizon for all other cases.
And keep in mind both networks are growing rapidly. Check and see if you’re covered before you buy.