Verizon Wireless will start selling the Apple iPad packaged with a separate mobile Wi-Fi portable hot spot device on Oct. 28 at 2,000 Verizon stores, the carrier and Apple announced today.
Verizon will only offer iPads and Wi-Fi + MiFi mobile hot spot devices for access over its 3G cellular network. For MiFi connectivity, users will have to carry a MiFi 2200 Intelligent Mobile Hotspot pocket-size device along with the iPad. MiFi will function as a personal Wi-Fi hot spot to deliver Internet connectivity over cellular networks for the iPad and up to four other Wi-Fi-ready devices.
Verizon won't be selling an iPad that runs on its CDMA network directly. It plans to charge $20 a month for 1GB of data via MiFi.
Separately, AT&T and Apple announced that AT&T will begin to carry iPad Wi-Fi + 3G models in 2,200 stores on the same day, with a data plan starting at $14.99 a month.
Verizon Wireless Chief Operating Officer John Stratton called the iPad a "perfect pairing [with] the nation's largest and most reliable 3G data network."
Apple iPhone users for years have complained about connection problems on AT&T's network and have wondered if a version of the iPhone would ever be available for use on Verizon's network. Today's announcement shows that offering devices that work on Verizon's network, which has 92 million users, is clearly a priority for Apple -- even if so far it is only doing that with the iPad tablet via a MiFi device.
Many analysts believe Verizon will start carrying the iPhone early next year.
"We're thrilled to be working with Verizon Wireless to get iPad into the hands of even more customers this holiday season," Apple COO Tim Cook said in a statement. "IPad allows users to connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before, and together with Verizon Wireless we're offering an easy way to stay connected wherever you go."
Cook also said in a separate statement that he was "very happy" to see AT&T selling iPads with Wi-Fi and 3G in AT&T stores.
The MiFi unit from Verizon comes with a rechargeable battery that provides up to four hours of use and 40 hours of standby time on a single charge. It is already for sale by Verizon for $99.99 with a two-year contract to connect to five Wi-Fi devices, although it has not been marketed explicitly as a connection for the iPad.
A user can already buy a MiFi device and monthly service on Verizon's network and use it to connect to an iPad. What's new is that Verizon can now sell iPads in its stores with Apple's backing.
An AT&T online service rep today said that iPad Wi-Fi users can now get a MiFi device for free with a two-year service contract. One of the current plans costs $39.99 a month for 250MB of data; the other costs $59.99 a month for 5GB of data.
Verizon is pricing the iPad with Wi-Fi plus MiFi at $629.99 for the 16GB version, $729.99 for the 32GB model and $829.99 for the 64GB device.
AT&T will charge 99 cents less for each of the models that run Wi-Fi and 3G: $629, $729 and $829.
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 email@example.com.