Apple's iPad 2: A New Front in the Verizon vs. AT&T Battle?

Includes: AAPL, T, VZ
by: Larry Dignan

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is widely expected to unveil its next-generation iPad March 2, but it’s worth watching how the device will accelerate the Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) vs. AT&T (NYSE:T) battle.

That’s the takeaway from Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen. Larsen notes that the Verizon iPhone features Qualcomm’s latest Gobi chipset, which can handle both GSM and CDMA networks. If that formula is followed with the iPad 2 consumers will be able to pick their carrier at the point-of-purchase.

The new Verizon iPhone contains Qualcomm’s latest Gobi chipset, which could be configured to provide service to both GSM and CDMA networks. This would make it easy, in our opinion, for Apple to manufacture, distribute and sell one iPad that can be sold to AT&T and Verizon customers. This could, however, open up a whole new era of competition between the two largest US carriers. Imagine that a customer goes into an Apple store and buys an iPad with 3G connectivity. At the point of sale, they make no decision about which carrier to use, and will only do so when they log into the device and either select Verizon or AT&T. The carriers could be forced to compete on price, in addition to airing “my 3G network is better than yours” commercials.

The wild card here is Verizon’s 4G Long-Term Evolution network. Larsen speculates that there is a slim chance that the iPad will include an LTE chipset.

Indeed, a Verizon LTE iPad “could trump all in the near term,” said Larsen. The analyst isn’t putting a high probability to an LTE iPad, but such a device would stop Motorola’s Xoom before it even got rolling.

Original post