CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again


How fast data can we get on the new iPad in the UK?

The new iPad is 4G, meaning we should have faster browsing and download speeds, right? It's not quite that simple...

The new iPad boasts 4G LTE for super-bonus-zippy mobile data fun times. Except it's not quite as simple as that.

4G means faster data speeds than we currently struggle along with, but these are technology companies we're dealing with. They can't be trusted to keep things simple. We've got a full breakdown of the types of 4G, the differences between them, and when we'll see them in the UK. And here's a warning -- it's not good news for us Brits wanting faster speeds on a new iPad.

3G networks currently operate at 7.2Mbps, but are being upgraded to 21.6Mbps HSPA+. (Dongles like the Huawei E367 support HSPA+, so can take advantage of the faster speed.) But HSPA+ isn't true 4G, seeing as it's built on the 3G network.

HSPA+ dual carrier -- yet another variant, also known as DC-HSDPA -- can reach 42Mbps, and can work on our venerable 3G infrastructure, once networks roll it out. The iPad supports DC-HSDPA, as does the new Nokia Lumia 900.

Everything Everywhere promises we'll see HSPA+ offering speeds of up to 21Mbps and 42Mbps before the year's end. Three says it's rolling out 42Mbps this summer, with 70 per cent of its network already working at 21Mbps. 

That's at peak though, and as anyone who's ever checked their actual broadband speeds will tell you, that's miles off the day to day reality. Three's current 21Mbps service achieves around 10Mbps in practice, so to double that would still be a huge improvement on current 3G, as long as the coverage is there.

LTE is the new iPad's top gear, however, with peak speeds over LTE at about 150-160Mbps -- a massive step up. So when will we see LTE in the UK? The networks are currently embroiled in a spectrum auction that looks a little fraught, to put it lightly. The last we heard was the auction was set to take place at the end of the year, delayed from the first half of 2012 following the threat of legal action from some mobile operators. 

LTE will be served on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz spectrums for the UK, but there's a rather large caveat. The new iPad only supports the 700MHz and 2,100MHz frequencies. In other words, until Apple announces a version that supports the 800MHz and 2.6GHz frequency bands (and the networks actually roll out support for them), we're not going to see speeds anywhere near true 4G.

Though all these aren't even true 4G anyway. LTE Advanced, with speeds of 1Gbps, is proper 4G, but expect it to be a good few years before we see data that fast in the UK.

So the new iPad may be 4G in name, but the reality isn't quite as exciting for us Brits. In the meantime, however, the halfway house sounds pretty great.

What do you think of the situation? Let me know in the comments, or on our Facebook page.