Do Canadian wireless operators have iPad lust?

So how hungry are Canadian wireless operators for Apple's iPad? We can't tell you, because they're not saying. A spokesman for Telus Corp. said the company doesn't talk about products it doesn't carry yet, while a Rogers Communications allowed that “We'd love to continue to work with Apple, but at this time, we have nothing to announce.” Given the soaring demand for iPhones, one might expect that operators around the world will be clamoring for it.

But will they? FIrst, unlike an iPhone, the iPad is a data-only device. It will add considerably to the load on a network. Second, the initial cellular versions available to AT&T in the U.S. starting in April will only come with an HSPA 7.2 Mbps modem. That won't take advantage of the spanking new 21 Mbps HSPA+ networks we have on this side of the border. Will users turn their noses up and stick to their laptops and high speed USB wireless modems? Then there's the iPad's limitations: a pokey 1 Ghz CPU with little multitasking muscle, no SD for downloads, only a maximum 64 Gb of internal storage, proprietary sealed battery, it only runs iPhone applications AND if you already have a wireless plan you can't tag the iPad on it. Nope, you have to pay for an extra plan. Then there's the exclusivity question: in the U.S., only AT&T will sell iPads. Will Apple only choose one carrier here?

Already, many are dismissing the iPad as just a big iTouch and insisting they won't give up their big — and heavy — laptops.

Hold on there, says Canadian telecom analyst Mark Goldberg. First. AT&T has a lock in the U.S. because the iPad only runs on AT&T's frequency bands, which no one one else has there. Bell, Rogers and Telus's networks run on the same 850/1900 Mhz bands, so he predicts all three will offer the iPad. Second, for those worried about speed by the time iPads come here in two months time, Apple might have upgraded the modem to HSPA+.

“The availability of portable devices that drive increased mobile connectivity is generally a good trend,” Goldberg said, “because it's part of a transformation of the population to being able to take advantage of this more connected life.”

There's also this fact: for operators, data means revenue. Big revenue.

Finally, note that market research firm IDC predicts Apple will ship 2 million iPads to the U.S. this year.

So the odds are would-be Canadian buyers are already saving their pennies. Operators are already dreaming.


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