Tuesday, 20 March 2012 18:39

The iPad 3 hotspot notspot

By

If you've purchased an iPad 3, like me, and have been looking for Apple's promised new 'personal hotspot' feature, you won't find it - or at least, not yet.

One of the somewhat surprising new features of the iPad 3, beyond the fact it isn't called the iPad 3 but instead the 'new iPad', is the fact that, 'if your carrier supports it', your new iPad will work as a personal hotspot.

That means, as is possible with the iPhone 4 and 4S, that your iPad 3 can support three devices connecting via Wi-Fi, one via Bluetooth, and one plugged in via the white USB cable.

Over at the iPad features page of Apple's site, we have a heading called 'iPad as a personal hotspot', and a description that states: 'Now for the first time, you can share the high-speed data connection on your iPad. If your carrier supports it, iPad can act as a personal hotspot for connecting up to five devices '” such as a MacBook Air, an iPod touch or another iPad '” over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB.

Unfortunately, no carrier in Australia yet appears to support this new feature on the iPad. I looked for the hotspot in the iPad 3's settings yesterday after unwrapping a shiny new "new iPad" that I purchased at retail, but found nothing. So, I did a Google search for 'iPad 3 personal hotspot' and found a range of articles at Whirlpool and over at Telstra's forums, and at this stage it appears only Vodafone is promising to deliver the feature soon via a 'carrier update'.

Hopefully Telstra and Optus will deliver the feature via a carrier update sometime soon, too, although the feature will put additional pressure onto 3G networks, with Telstra saying through its crowd-source support site that it is looking into the issue.  

A recent Delimiter article noted that the Telstra Next G network appears to be suffering from congestion in the Sydney and Melbourne CBDs, as Telstra's network struggles to cope with the large influx of new Next G customers.

The iPad 3's support for HSPA+ and DC-HSPA puts even more pressure onto Telstra's Next G network, and even though Telstra has been advertising its 4G network vigourously, there's obviously still plenty of new and existing customers enjoying the benefits that the Next G network delivers - at least most of the time - compared to its regular 3G brethren on the other networks.

Telstra also offers extremely competitive iPad SIM data pricing, much better than its regular pricing, so this might also be giving Telstra pause before allowing all of its iPad 3 users to share the cheaper data benefits that iPad SIM plans offer.

In addition, letting Telstra iPad users share their non-true-4G connection may well place even more pressure on the Next G network in those congested CBD areas, so we'll just have to wait for clear confirmation from all the carriers before Apple's otherwise extremely handy 'personal hotspot' feature for the iPad 3 becomes an actual reality for all.

So, you'll just have to use the hotspot feature on your existing smartphone if you need to share Wi-Fi from an existing mobile data plan, but hopefully, Apple and Australian carriers will ensure that the 'personal hotspot' feature is enabled ASAP.

Until then, the personal hotspot on the iPad 3 is a personal notspot, and while I sort-of understand the initial delay, this notspot business means I, and other iPad 3 owners, are simply not happy, and just have to understand that iPatience is an iVirtue!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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