LTE downloads of HD video on new iPad could cause sticker shock

Downloading one HD movie to new Apple iPad via LTE network could alone exceed monthly data allowance

The new Apple iPad's LTE and HD video support make a powerful combination, but could end up costing users -- or their employers -- a bundle.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates said companies paying monthly fees for 3G and 4G LTE services for iPads from either Verizon Wireless of AT&T may want to set policies restricting downloading of data-rich materials, such as HD movies.

Some full-length HD movie files can measure 3GB to 4GB, which could sap up an entire month's data allowance depending on the carrier.

AT&T data prices start at $30 a month for 3GB of data for tablet users without a contract. Verizon's tablet data charges start at $30 a month for 2GB of data.

In an online chat, Verizon said that its current data price list will remain in effect for the new LTE iPad, which ships on March 16. In a December test, Computerworld found that downloading a single 128-minute HD movie over LTE to the Galaxy Nexus smartphone from Samsung took nearly two hours to download and measured 3.7 GB.

At that time, Verizon was charging $30 a month to download up to 4GB of data onto smartphones. That special deal didn't apply to tablets.

Under regular price list, Verizon charged $30 for 2GB. Thus that single movie would have exceeded the 2GB data limit, and users would be charged $10 per 1GB in overage charges.

As smartphone and tablet users increasingly download movies and other big files over Wi-Fi, Gold suggested IT shops warn against downloading movies over LTE, which provides a faster download than 3G networks.

"At work, you'd assume workers are not doing a lot of video downloading, but just in case, many companies are now telling workers to be careful," Gold said.

Sometimes companies use tools to monitor what types of files are downloaded over corporate Wi-Fi and LAN networks. But those tools don't work when workers bypass corporate networks and use LTE over the air.

"Downloads of big files will be true of iPads as much as it has been with laptops, Gold said. "But with more mobile devices and richer content available, the problem grows."

Adding LTE to a device can entice users to download something quicker.

"Many companies may not know what their users are doing with devices, because most companies don't do much telecom expense management," Gold said. "If the company is footing the monthly data bill, they could get a real shocker. "

He advised companies to set policies for use of new iPads or any consumer device brought to work, and to consider buying tools that monitor usage over the corporate network.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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