AT&T is looking forward to a future when all devices, including iPads are sold with 3G or LTE built-in. That was the message that the carrier’s Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices, told reporters at this week’s CTIA conference in New Orleans. That approach would be somewhat similar to many smart TV devices that include support for a range of features that users may or may not use – Netflix or Flickr on the Apple TV, for example.
Lurie described the current range of tablet options where devices, including the iPad, come in separate Wi-Fi and 3G/4G models as being “a little out of balance” – a situation he ascribed to the cost difference that 3G and LTE versions of a device compared to its Wi-Fi-only counterparts.
The idea is certainly an attractive one for carriers as it makes it more likely that they will gain mobile broadband customers. For some devices, they will also probably gain new two-year contracts in the process. That’s particularly true for devices that carriers subsidize and offer at lower price points as they do mobile phones.
The current iPad model, which sells contract-free and unsubsidized, might be a better fit to Lurie’s concept of having 3G/4G available if a customer ever wants to use it. Being contract-free, 3G and LTE iPads let free up users to adjust data plans as needed and even leave service turned off until or unless its needed.
Of course, the flip side to that freedom is the extra $130 price tag for 3G iPad 2 and LTE new iPad models.
While not addressing the iPad in particular, Lurie said AT&T is happy with its current 3G and LTE tablet sales. He also acknowledged that one way to encourage broader adoption of 3G/4G tablets and other devices is data plans that aren’t device specific, such as letting a user’s data plan cover data used on both an iPhone and iPad. Unfortunately, he said the company has no plans to announce multi-device plans but that it is studying the possibility.