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Will the 4G iPad work with 3G?

New iPad compatible with faster 3G

The new iPad, reviewed, is available in two versions: one connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi, the other via the more-exciting-sounding 4G.

The trouble is that the UK isn’t ready for 4G yet. In fact nowhere is really – the new iPad uses 4G LTE. LTE isn’t short for Lite, it stands for Long Term Evolution. But it might as well as be Lite, because 4G LTE is pegged back at 73Mbps rather than 4G’s potential 100Mbps.

That said, it’s much faster than what we’re used to with 3G – up to 10/15 times as fast, O2 suggests.

(Of course you have to be able to get a new iPad first. There is currently a delay of 2-3 weeks on UK new iPad availablility if you didn't order when the tablet was announced.)

The good news is that the new iPad is compatible with the current 3G data plan you might be using with the old iPad 2 (max speed a measly 14.4Mbps). There’s no need to ditch your 3G contract if you buy a 4G iPad.

In fact the 4G iPad works on GSM/UMTS worldwide network technologies, including HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA – which Apple claims are the fastest 3G networks out there. Downlink speeds up to 42Mbps with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1Mbps with HSPA+ are possible.

Think of HSPA+ as 3.5G, somewhere between 3G and 4G.

Read the excellent “4G LTE in the UK: what you need to know” for many more UK technical 4G and 3G iPad facts.

T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 is available on over half the carrier’s network, and the company claims it will be completed in later this summer, delivering around a 50 percent increase in data download speeds.

Currently Vodafone has claimed its 3G service will run on the new iPad at speeds of up to 28.8Mbps – for users in major cities. Travel out to the suburbs and that will drop to a maximum 21.1MBps.

21.1Mbps is the maximum speed claimed by the UK carriers O2, Three and Everything Everywhere.

All carriers are promising they're working on plans to reach 42Mbps 3G speeds, although don't expect to see such performance until the very end of the year.

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