On eve of Apple iPad launch, AT&T pledges to improve network

On Thursday, AT&T announced it was pouring $2 billion into improving network infrastructure in 2010. Among the major beneficiaries are the Apple iPad and the Apple iPhone, which has strained the company's network in recent months.

Paul Sakuma/AP
Apple CEO outlines the iPad's network capabilities Wednesday from the stage of the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.
The Apple iPad. On Thursday, AT and T said it would boost spending on network infrastructure, a move intended to quell fears that AT and T will be unable to manage the strain the Apple iPad could put on the network.

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad this week, many analysts worried that the AT&T network would be unable to handle the strain the iPad would put it. Yesterday, AT&T sought to reassure investors and consumers that the company, which has struggled to provide consistent iPhone service in many metro areas, was more than up to the task of handling the Apple iPad.

In a conference call with reporters, Chief Operating Officer John Stankey said AT&T planned to pour more than $2 billion into network infrastructure in the coming year, much of which would fund upgrades to cell sites around the country. In addition, Stankey said AT&T would add 2,000 new cell sites in order to improve network capacity.

“We’ve got an aggressive plan to benefit everyone,” Stankey said, according to the New York Times.

Network strength is likely to be a key issue for AT&T in 2010, especially once the Apple iPad hits the market. As we wrote yesterday, AT&T is having enough trouble with the Apple iPhone, which drains 10 times the network capacity of other smart phones. The Apple iPad, billed by Jobs as the ideal device for streaming video and music, will put additional torque on the network.

Apple plans to offer a range of pricing options for the iPad. The cheapest 16GB iPad, equipped with only Wi-Fi connectivity, is being priced by Apple at $499, but many consumers are likely to opt for the $629 version, which comes with a 3G connection. AT&T is offering a two-tiered pricing system for the 3G model: 250MB for $14.99 a month or unlimited access for $29.99 per month.

Check out our iPad coverage page for more on the new tablet, and drop us a line in the comments section or on Twitter.

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