by Bill Snyder

The New iPad: Verizon Is Your Best Bet

Mar 13, 20123 mins
CarriersComputers and PeripheralsMobile

If you want to take advantage of the iPad's new found ability to tether on a 4G network, Verizon is your only choice. AT&T, as usual, lags behind.

Wowee. Friday is the day the new iPad goes on sale, and if you’re one of the thousands who are going to line up in late winter weather, you ought to think about this before you cross the threshold of that Apple store: Which carrier will do the best job supporting the third-generation iPad? I won’t keep you guessing: It’s Verizon.

Aside from my general take that AT&T is a crummy wireless carrier, the main issue is 4G tethering. Verizon supports it, and AT&T doesn’t. That may change in the future, but for now, you’re out of luck on Ma Bell’s network if you want to use that pricey new device as a hotspot.

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Verizon says it will support the Personal Hotspot application that lets iPad owners use their tablet as a hub to connect up to five other devices to Verizon’s LTE network through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB. The downside, of course, is that tethering sucks battery life like a digital squid, and you’ll be paying for plenty of gigabytes. But it is a very useful application if you’re with a number of co-workers or friends in an area where there’s no Wi-Fi and you all need to be online.

It can be difficult, at times, to figure out what exactly wireless plans cover, but I spoke with a Verizon sales person and she said tethering will cost $20 extra, and that seems to be what the company Web site says as well. I’ve seen a few media accounts that say Verizon won’t charge, but I suspect they’re wrong. Given that this is a new product, a little confusion is probably inevitable.

Verizon data plans are as follows: 2GB for $30 a month, 5GB for $50, and the 10GB for $80. AT&T offers tablet users 3 GB for $30 a month; and 5GB for $50. (Remember the iPhone doesn’t support 4G on anybody’s network, though I would guess that it will when we see an iPhone 5.)

AT&T, meanwhile, is expanding its 4G LTE network. On Tuesday, the carrier announced that it will add the faster service to 12 new markets, mostly in the mid-West, over the next four or five months. (See the press release for the details.)

But as to tethering, a company spokesman told tech news site The Verge: “We are working with Apple to enable this feature in the future, but we currently do not offer it.”

Finally, I’ve noticed that the new iPad is showing up on Craig’s List posts, selling for a hefty premium. Me, I’d be real careful about that; be sure to open the box and take a good luck at what’s inside. Not that I’m suspicious or anything….