New iPad: AT&T 4G LTE vs. Verizon 4G LTE

The iPad 3rd generation models are the first Apple products compatible with Verizon and AT&T’s 4G LTE networks. This is a serious upgrade from the iPad 2′s mobile wireless feature since 4G LTE offers speeds that are several times faster than 3G and many wired Internet connections. But which carrier should you choose?

(Read: New iPad Speed Tests: AT&T vs. Verizon 4G LTE)

There are pros and cons to both AT&T and Verizon. Below is a breakdown of the difference between Verizon 4G LTE and AT&T 4G LTE. Each network has its advantages and disadvantages. We suggest evaluating the differences carefully before purchasing your new iPad since you’re locked into either AT&T or Verizon once you make the purchase.

Coverage

To start, you should be aware that there’s a difference between 4G and 4G LTE. Both types of networks offer speeds faster than 3G, but 4G LTE is far faster than just plain 4G, which is largely a marketing term.

Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless have 4G LTE service now, but AT&T’s coverage isn’t as wide as Verizon’s. AT&T does have wide 4G (non-LTE) coverage and they’re rolling out LTE in more cities through the year. While this is a good thing, it’s impossible to predict how fast and reliable AT&T’s 4G LTE will be in your neighborhood before it’s live. As with all wireless networks, speed and reliability can vary from block to block.

AT&T 4G LTE Coverage Map

When you look at AT&T’s coverage map, don’t pay attention to the blue bits. Just look at the orange dots — those are the cities with LTE coverage. As you can see, most states simply don’t have 4G LTE coverage.

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Meanwhile, Verizon’s LTE map is much more extensive, though it does favor the East and Midwest.

Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Coverage Map

If you don’t live in an area covered by AT&T LTE, you should consider going with Verizon Wireless unless AT&T plans to bring LTE to your city within a timeframe acceptable to you.

Network Speed

Since Verizon’s LTE network is more mature than AT&T’s, there are more people on it. That has an effect on network speeds, though not a major one. In the year since Verizon first rolled out LTE in New York City I’ve seen a slight decline in speed, though on average it’s still faster than what the company promises.

There are only a few devices even capable of accessing AT&T’s LTE network, including the recently released Samsung Galaxy Note. Right now this network is very fast — about the same as Verizon a year ago.

AT&T 4G LTE Speed Tests

AT&T 4G LTE Speed Tests in NYC

I’ve recorded speeds in different neighborhoods and boroughs around New York City for the past couple of weeks on an AT&T LTE device (Galaxy Note) and several Verizon LTE devices (HTC Thunderbolt, Galaxy Nexus and Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7).

AT&T’s LTE network averaged 18.82Mbps downloading and 11.84Mbps uploading. The fastest tests usually hit 21 – 24Mbps down and 12 – 14Mbps up.

Verizon’s LTE network averaged 17.28Mbps downloading and 12.69Mbps uploading. When the network is fast it’s super fast (26 – 27Mbps), though I usually only see these scores in my neighborhood, which isn’t as densely populated as many parts of Manhattan or Brooklyn. The highest upload scores are between 12 and 14Mbps.

In the video below you can see our new iPad speed test, a head to head comparison of AT&T 4G LTE and Verizon LTE in San Francisco.

Plans and Pricing

Most of the data plan prices haven’t changed from the iPad 2 even though 4G LTE is dramatically faster than 3G. The exception is that AT&T now offers 3GB for $30 instead of just 2GB. iPad owners still have their choice of three AT&T plans and four Verizon Wireless plans. Just as before, these are month-to-month plans. This means you don’t have to sign any long-term contracts that lock you in for two years.

Carrier Data Per Month Price Price Per GB
AT&T 250MB $14.99 $59.96
AT&T 3GB $30.00 $10.00
AT&T 5GB $50.00 $10.00
Verizon Wireless 1GB $20.00 $20.00
Verizon Wireless 2GB $30.00 $15.00
Verizon Wireless 5GB $50.00 $10.00
Verizon Wireless 10GB $80.00 $8.00

AT&T’s 250MB per month for $14.99 plan is the least expensive, but the worst deal. It’s very easy to hit this low of a data limit, especially on 4G.

iPad owners get access to a data tier on Verizon Wireless that customers on other devices don’t: $20 for 1GB per month. If you’re looking for a low-cost bargain and don’t use much data, this is a better choice than the least expensive AT&T option.

AT&T jumps up to 3GB from the lowest plan. At least you’re getting a better cost per GB, and it’s better than Verizon’s $30 tier, which only offers 2GB. Both carriers have a $50 for 5GB plan. Verizon offers one further tier: $80 for 10GB.

If you want to keep costs down, Verizon is the way to go. If you intend to use a lot of data, Verizon is also the better choice. If you plan to stick to 2GB or 3GB, AT&T wins out. But Verizon at least gives you more options. And then there’s this:

Mobile Hotspot

Apple announced that the new iPad is capable of mobile hotspot functionality, but they didn’t promise their carrier partners would offer it.

Initially there was some confusion on this issue similar to what we saw when the iPhone with mobile hotspot capability launched. But yesterday Verizon Wireless confirmed that the feature will work on the Verizon 4G LTE model and that it won’t cost any extra money.

(Read: Mobile Hotspot Included in Verizon’s iPad 4G LTE Data Plan)

This applies to all data tiers from 1GB up to 10GB (I suggest the 5GB or 10GB if you plan to use the hotspot much). No need to call for activation or pay $20 more per month. This is a better deal than Verizon Wireless smartphone customers enjoy since they do have to pay more for this feature.

By contrast, AT&T says that they aren’t offering the mobile hotspot service right now. Since the iPad is hotspot capable it is possible for AT&T to change their minds at a later date. Keep in mind that, right now, only AT&T smartphone customers with the 5GB plan can activate the hotspot feature, so this may be true for the iPad as well if the carrier changes its mind.

 

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Hopefully this has helped you make a decision between AT&T and Verizon for your new iPad.

Comments

  1. Shoppinglarry says

    Do both AT&T and Verizon LTE models have removable sim cards so we can switch them while traveling? It’s one thing to roam in other countries, but much cheaper to just go to a local carrier and switch the sim. The Verizon iPad 2 doesn’t have a removable sim but im hoping the Verizon “new” iPad does.

    • CRodBlogs says

      The new iPad on Verizon will have a sim card slot which you can use when traveling abroad or even with a T-Mobile or AT&T sim in the US. This will give you only a 3G/2G connection, no 4G though. 4G will only be available through Verizon on such an iPad. At least this is how I understand it.

      • Freddie Fallas says

        does anyone have an update to this?  currently the iPad 2 on att has a removable sim and the verizon doesn’t.  for me this feature is essential as i travel to europe a lot and buy a european sim for each country i travel to (paris, 10 euro for 3 days of 3g unlimited).  

        • Justinwill86 says

          The iPad (Third Generation) is a global capable device.  Both the Verizon and AT&T models have removable microSIM cards.  Because Verizon and AT&T use different spectrum ranges for LTE service it is not possible to switch carriers and receive 4G LTE service. The iPad does support most global GSM frequency bands as well as CDMA bands, including 3G/2G bands in the United States.

  2. Gdeschodt says

    you info is out of date, At&t offers 3Gig for $30, not 2… making it a better deal in that bracket. Until verizon matches them anyway

  3. bth says

    “Both the ATT and Verizon model of iPad can roam worldwide on GSM/UMTS networks. In countries without compatible 4G LTE networks, the new iPad will operate on GSM network technologies such as HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA. When you travel internationally, you can use a micro-SIM card from a local carrier.” 

    I assume this means that one can buy the iPad in the US and take it home to other countries, like Norway in my instance?  And in that case; is the AT&T-model the best choice?

  4. Isaac says

    I’m not seeing the 1GB for $20 option on Verizon’s website. Only three data plans are listed?!

      • Overzeetop says

        I checked with a rep, and new activations are not eligible for the 1GB/$20. Shame, too, as I’d have been all over it.  I may call and try anyway. 

        • ndeno says

          for the ipad2, the 1 gb plan for $20 only shows up on the actual ipad you’re activating not online. i assume its the same for lte.

  5. Question says

    Can you use the LTE SIM card from a Verizon phone in a Verizon iPad or are you required to activate a completely different card? 

    • Tyler says

      You must use a separate SIM card since the iPad plans are not connected to your phone account whatsoever. 

  6. Runner1738 says

    after reading this i think im going to cancel my verizon and get att since you only get 2 gb for $ 30 bucks

    • MJ Zimmer says

      Realistically, for most people the chances of using the extra gig are slim, unless you’re using it as a mobile hotspot.

      Having the mobile hotspot feature included is *huge* in my book. Easily worth giving up the extra gig. (Keeping in mind that if you somehow do go over the 2GB limit, its probably like another $10 for the 3rd gig.)

  7. Tom Lewis says

    I agree on hotspot. I have only spotty slow internet where I am, so I would use the hotspot feature when needing a medium-size file on my MB Air or Mini (I can download large files at work or other places). That is, unless there were some way to move files FROM the iPad after the fact.

    I used the Virgin Mobile dongle which was prepaid 250 MB for $20 a month until they raised it to $30, and 250 is not much at all; email and a couple podcasts and you’re done for the month. But it had a great feature that allowed you to keep track of what you used. Is there a way to do that on the iPad? 

  8. MichelleH says

    K.T. – thanks for this comprehensive review. I have been waffling all day between whether to get the AT&T or the Verizon version and was leaning toward Verizon and this sealed the deal. Thanks for the great review. Tweeting it out now! Michelle

  9. Robertpaulcus says

    I have been trying to find this basic information, clearly laid out so that i can make a decision as I am buying one – now i know – Thank you for an incredibly clear article with the useful information

  10. SteveinJersey says

    Can someone – preferably a current Verizon-enabled iPad 2 owner – confirm that Verizon does NOT charge any activation or re-activation fees for providing 3G service for the iPad 2?  I have scoured the Web, called an Apple rep,  and called a Verizon Wireless store on this and have gotten nothing but conflicting reports.   I’ve used my at&t 3G-enabled original iPad for the past two years and activate the 3G service only during the summer months and have never had to incur activation fees.

  11. Sallami26 says

    Did anyone notice that Verizon’s data calculator shows a 5x increase in data usage for streaming video? ATT 4g is 120mb per minute and verizon 4g is 650! Not a good deal at all!

    • Feamster says

      A number of streaming services increase your bitrate when you have high data throughput.  That’s how they deal try to provide the best video for slow to fast internet speeds.

      • Sal says

        Feamster. I’m trying to understand why AT&T doesnt charge extra but Verizon does. The representatives confitrmed it on the phone. Why isnt anyone talking about this, its a major factor in the decision

  12. C.G. says

    I just stopped by a Verizon Wireless store. You have to get the 5GB plan at $50 to get the hotspot. No hotspot on the 2GB plan. Did anyone else see that?

    • George says

      Not true … I have the Verizon new iPad and was able to turn on the hotspot feature using the 2GB for $30 plan.  I also confirmed that I can switch to the 1GB for $20 plan at any time.  There was no activation fee for enabling the LTE data plan … my credit card was billed just the $30.  Also, the LTE service from Verizon is excellent!  Got throughput of over 20MB/s download and 14MB/s upload this morning!

  13. Connor J Jenkins8930 says

    Do you have to pay money to activate and deactivate and activate again the 4G on the new iPad on Verizon?

  14. Tiffany says

    I live in Beaumont Texas and I am looking into purchasing the Ipad 3, Which one is better for this area At&t or Verizon? (I have never used either one.) I travel to Houston and San Antonio alot.

  15. Don says

    Can anyone currently using the iPad as a hotspot under Verizon tell me how well it works for you, and how much usage it takes? I need Internet access for my home network, mainly for email and modest browsing.
    Thanks

  16. Robert says

    I assume the Verizon hotspot feature works for both 4G and 3G data? Could someone mind confirming this for me? Please? and Thank you!
    I don’t live in a 4G market and just want to know if I can still use the hotspot on 3G. Hotspot is the main reason I would get the new iPad vs the iPad2.

  17. T S says

    Yes, my Verizon iPad3 makes a 3G hotspot, along with LTE. Hotspotting doesn’t seem to get the full bandwidth, though (my 10Mbps turned into 3-4Mbps for the second device).

  18. MikeS1981 says

    AT&T 4G LTE is where its at! I use the IPad to help me with graphic designs. Lightning speeds here in Austin, TX and looking forward to AT&T expanding the 4G LTE network to new cities.

    • Karin Bradley says

      I’m in Dallas and I agree — thank god for AT&T and the 4G LTE service it’s just amazingly fast. So, who are your biggest graphics design clients? I’m always interested in networking here in Texas; I do illustrations.

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