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“New iPad” vs LTE Roaming

Key words: Mobile Data, Roaming, iPad

LTE provides an evolution path from various technologies into a single technology that has been agreed by the world to adopt. It is a technology that “unites” the world. So can I bring my LTE handset from where I live, and use it anywhere in the world with LTE coverage?

The “New iPad” (not called “iPad 3”, apparently) is a sign of things to come in the LTE device world. The New iPad comes in two variations: 700+2100MHz for AT&T, and 700MHz for Verizon. Based on a quick research, AT&T works on 3GPP Band 17 (700MHz) and Verizon on Band 13 (also 700MHz). But there is more – worldwide there are commercial networks on 1800MHz (Band 3) and 2600MHz (Band 7), and there are plenty more coming on 1800MHz. To top that off there is TDD variation of LTE which is slowly gaining traction but comes with its own list of frequency bands.

The other recent LTE device announcement: Nokia Lumia 900 in the US, supports LTE Band 17 (700MHz) and Band 4 (1700/2100MHz AWS band).

This is getting complicated. How do roaming users know if his LTE device would work in their country of destination?

What is positive, is these devices are supporting the “older” GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA technologies in multiple frequency bands. In both iPad and Lumia 900 examples, there seem to be sufficient bands supported in both technologies to allow good roaming capabilities in those modes. (surprisingly that the Lumia 900 does not support UMTS/HSPA in 2100MHz – the dominent UMTS/HSPA band)

Both the New iPad and the Lumia 900 are first generation LTE devices, maybe future devices will include more frequency support. Until then, the scope of LTE roaming will be limited. With the number of 1800MHz networks being rolled out, I suspect LTE1800 will be the next frequency band that manufacturers will strive to support.