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Verizon installing LTE equipment in Apple stores for next iPad?

Carrier has reportedly sent in "plain clothes contractors" to install LTE in Apple stores, though the number of locations is unknown.

Will the next iPad come with LTE support?
Apple's iPad event teaser Apple

A new report is adding more fuel to rumors that Apple has bundled Long Term Evolution tech into the next iPad for speedier data transfer.

Citing sources, Apple blog AppleInsider reported last night that Verizon has sent employees into Apple Store locations to install 4G LTE. That report followed another from Cult of Mac, which claimed Verizon workers have been adding LTE support to Apple stores "over the last couple...days."

This isn't the first time AppleInsider has heard claims that Verizon was installing LTE in Apple Stores. Last month, the blog "heard from tipsters" that the carrier was sending "plain clothes contractors" into Apple stores to start installing the technology.

Apple is holding its special iPad event today, and speculation abounds that the company will be including 4G LTE in the device. Earlier this month, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said that the next iPad will be a "substantial" upgrade, boasting an improved processor, Siri support, and yes, LTE. He said that Apple has found a way to implement it while still preserving battery life.

Just yesterday, Reuters followed that up with a report, citing sources, claiming the iPad will be coming with LTE.

LTE has become a key component in a host of smartphones and tablets, as vendors try to differentiate their products from Apple's and deliver devices that can take advantage of the speedy networks. Last year, Apple was criticized for not following its competitors and bundling LTE into its iPhone and iPad. In a call with analysts, however, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the technology "would force design compromises we're not willing to make."

If Apple does, indeed, bring LTE to the new iPad, it would make sense that the company would partner with Verizon. AT&T currently only covers about 74 million people across the U.S. with LTE. Verizon Wireless, by contrast, covers over 200 million people across 196 markets.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. But we'll know all the details later today when Apple shows off its next tablet. And as you might expect, CNET will be there to cover every minute of it. CNET's live blog starts at 9:30 a.m. PT.