iPad 3 White

A Retina Display and a quad-core processor won't be the only features that make Apple's iPad 3 a must-have upgrade, according to recent reports. The device is also expected to offer 4G LTE connectivity, and it'll be sold by AT&T and Verizon when it launches in the U.S. early next month.

That's according to The Wall Street Journal, which cites sources "familiar with the matter" who claim Apple's upcoming iPad will be capable of connecting to the newest fourth-generation wireless networks from the nation's biggest carriers.

Both AT&T and Verizon are hoping that Apple's third-generation tablet will increase demand for their 4G networks in the same way the iPhone dramatically increased demand for 3G networks, according to the report:

Both companies are banking heavily on LTE to attract new subscribers and to get existing subscribers to upgrade to more lucrative monthly smartphone and tablet contracts. Apple's new iPad, which will work on those LTE networks, would give the country's two largest carriers a device that could help drum up demand for the faster service, in the way the original iPhone dramatically increased demand for 3G wireless data plans.

It's unknown whether the device will be exclusive to these carriers, or whether it could also be available from T-Mobile and Sprint as well. As you'd expect, both of these companies have declined to comment on the rumor.

Richard Doherty, director of research firm Envisioneering Group, believes that an iPad equipped with LTE technology will test how well carriers' 4G networks handle heavy data use:

He said Apple's current iPad, the iPad 2, which works with third generation wireless networks, consumes on average about four to eight times the amount of data as an iPhone. […]

"The new iPad will test carriers to see how robust their networks are," Mr. Doherty said.

But while 4G data speeds may be faster than than those offered by 3G connections, they are actually said to be a little kinder on carriers' networks. Verizon executives estimate that LTE networks are 50% more efficient than 3G ones, and so they "chew more slowly through carriers' spectrum holdings."

Apple's iPad 3 is widely believed to get its unveiling during the first week of March — possibly on Wednesday, March 7 — with a launch around one week later.

Would you like to see 4G LTE connectivity on the iPad 3?

[via The Wall Street Journal]