Is Verizon’s Network Ready for Apple’s Tablet and iPhone?

We’ve documented here at Sidecut Reports the ongoing struggles AT&T has had keeping its iPhone customers from congesting its wireless networks. Now apparently it’s Verizon’s turn to see how good its network is, if the rumors about Verizon getting the 3G contract for the also-rumored Apple tablet and Verizon getting the iPhone in June turn out to be true.

While there’s still a lot we don’t know — for instance, how much data plans for the devices might cost, what the data download limits might be, etc., etc. — our initial guess is that Verizon might be better equipped to handle a bigger traffic load, if only because Verizon has been aggressively building out for its Long Term Evolution (LTE) launches, still theoretically scheduled to start happening this calendar year. Since LTE installs will likely take place in a lot of the same 3G tower locations, it’s a good bet that Big Red has been beefing up cell-site backhaul in advance of these launches — instead of having to play catch-up like AT&T recently admitted it is now doing. If the rumored tablet appears and is as successful as the iPhone was, Verizon will find out very quickly how good its network really is.

Where is Clearwire, Sprint and WiMAX in all the tablet hulaballoo? Our finely tuned WiMAX radar hasn’t heard any hints of a WiMAX chip being inside the iTablet, not really a surprise given the still low market penetration of WiMAX services. Could that change later in the year or next year, if and when Clearwire launches services in San Francisco, New York and LA? Perhaps… but until then we might suggest that iTablet users take a look at Sprint’s Overdrive as a connectivity option — even if the tablet doesn’t have WiMAX it will almost certainly have Wi-Fi, allowing Sprint’s pocketspot (or the Clear Spot from Clearwire) to provide a 4G “local backhaul” where it is available. Just in case Verizon’s network isn’t as fast as you might like.

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