Wednesday 7th March 2012 was an important date for the wireless telecommunications industry. It is the date that Apple announced its new iPad 3. As well as offering a range of compelling capabilities, such as a high-resolution display, the iPad 3 is particularly notable for supporting 4G LTE services. Not only will the iPad 3 drive the demand for LTE connectivity in countries where LTE has already been launched (such as the USA), but it will hopefully also drive laggard operators to roll out LTE services.
As with all Apple product announcements, there has been much speculation about the timing of the iPad3 launch as well as the features of the new device. In the case of the most recent iPhone 4S launch, it seems that the hype got too far ahead of the reality and some observers felt that the iPhone 4S was a disappointment. We were nervous that the iPad 3 may suffer the same fate.
With all the speculation of retina displays, quad-core graphics and LTE capability, there was a risk that the actual iPad 3 launch would be underwhelming. This has proven not to be the case. With the new iPad 3, Apple has cemented its clear market leadership in the tablet market with an impressive user interface married with leading edge hardware.
There’s no doubt that the iPad 3, which will be officially available on Friday 16th March, will be on many people’s Christmas or birthday list! The iPad 3 has established the tablet as an important, often complementary, device to mobile phones, laptops and desktop PCs. With a larger screen than a smartphone, applications such as Web browsing become much easier when on the move. As well as being a useful travel companion, tablets are equally helpful in the home, for example being used as device to check email and Facebook while watching television.
When we were involved in the early standardisation of mobile systems, we used to envision devices with a compelling set of features, which included long battery life and low weight. With the iPad 3, that vision is now a reality. The iPad 3, which inevitably will followed by a raft of tablets from other manufacturers, will help to make the wireless industry an exciting place to be over the next five years.
Things are so different in the 4G LTE market compared with early 3G. In the early days of 3G, deployment of network infrastructure was well ahead of the availability of terminals. Indeed, NTT NoCoMo in Japan blamed very slow take-up of its 3G FOMA service on the lack of attractive handsets and terminals. Things have turned full circle! Now, 4G LTE is being constrained in many markets, including the UK, by the lack of widespread deployment of networks.
The lack of 4G in the UK is now a subject of interest from tabloid newspapers. The Daily Mail’s recent headline about the iPad 3 was, “Is the new iPad too smart for UK? British fans will fork out for hi-tech ‘4G’ connection but many never be able to use it.” The newspaper then went on to describe that while iPad 3 owners in the UK will end up paying for the privilege of having 4G LTE capability, they will not be able to benefit from this since 4G networks have yet to be rolled out.
We hope that the growing number of mobile users with LTE-enabled devices will increase the pressure on mobile operators to roll out high-quality networks. Then our vision of the mobile industry will finally come to fruition.