Australia’s iPad Controversy Exposes LTE Challenges for the Future


on March 30, 2012   |   1 comment

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The controversy in Australia over the LTE capabilities of the iPad 3 seems to have been resolved temporarily. Apple stated on Tuesday that it would give refunds to Australian owners of the iPad 3 if customers were disappointed with the tablet’s inability to use the LTE networks in Australia. The isolated case in Australia presents a large problem for customers who are using a foreign designed product in their home countries. The significant challenge for the LTE market is the increasing fragmentation of the frequencies used for LTE that leads countries to rely on various bands that may not all work on a device created to work on one specific bandwidth of LTE. The demand for spectrum to accommodate mobile data appetites is also leading to increased fragmentation to spectrum according to industry analysts. Peter Jarich, an analyst at Current Analysis pointed out that, “”If we start with this assumption that operators need more spectrum, then you end up with fragmentation. The one is just going to follow from the other.”

Adding to the complexity of the case is also the two variants that LTE can be deployed in: paired spectrum bands (FD or frequency division) or a unified band (TD or time division). Which one is used is dependent on the frequencies a carrier can get. The problem looks to remain for some time as there are too many possible combinations of LTE variants and frequencies for mobile phones to be created that will work with all of them.

Though it would be theoretically possible to build a mobile handset that could work with all the major LTE networks in the world, it is not really financially beneficial to carriers and handset makers. Both are much more interested in producing the least expensive devices that works on a national or local network that the majority of their customers want compatibility with, as it ensures them with a financial windfall.

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