4G Data Plans in Europe
4G service for iPads in Europe is somewhat complicated. In fact, you cannot get true 4G service on a North American iPad. The only way to get wireless service is to use a SIM card and even that solution varies depending upon what type of iPad you have.
Verizon and AT&T
Verizon and AT&T sell versions of the iPad that work on different types of networks. Neither of their 4G products will get 4G service in Europe because the type of network and the frequencies used are different. To get service in Europe, you have to downgrade to 3G for the time being.
Verizon networks use CDMA and LTE. CDMA is not available in Europe, so you have to use GSM or LTE technology to connect to their networks. AT&T can accommodate GSM and LTE networks, which are both used in Europe.
The Tech Issues
The issues with 4G in Europe get very complicated. The heart of the problem, however, is what frequency spectrum is used for their service and which frequencies a North American iPad expects to find 4G connectivity on. Unlike the UK, many European nations have very developed 4G networks. They’re not available to your iPad, however.
The iPad uses the 700MHz spectrum for 4G connectivity. Like the UK, this spectrum is used for television broadcasting in Europe. The iPad also uses the 2,100GHz spectrum, but this is used for 3G data connections in Europe. These are frequencies that use LTE network connections in both cases.
With the proper SIM card, the iPad 3 can use the 3G LTE network in Europe. The speeds, of course, are not as good as 4G, but they should prove adequate. Between using the 3G network and wireless connections in public places and commercial establishments, most visitors from North America get acceptable levels of service from their iPads.
North America is the only place in the world where you can get 4G connections over the 700 and 2,100MHz frequency bands. The advertising for Apple iPad 3′s in Europe, according to some complaints, made it seem like their 4G connection would work anywhere. There is no way to make them work in Europe, as these connections are simply not available on the frequencies that Apple uses for them and because that is not likely to change any time soon. Apple denies that their advertising was deceptive, deliberately or unintentionally.
Buying a SIM
If you’re buying a SIM, it’s best to buy one right in Europe, preferably locally to the place that you’ll be staying. There are good connections throughout most of Europe and your device shouldn’t have any trouble with connecting with the local SIM installed.
If you’re heading to Europe, expect it to be something of a hassle to get your iPad connected to their networks. At least be aware that you won’t be able to use your 4G connectivity anywhere but in North America. Other nations may require different workarounds. Some nations don’t have 4G available at all, of course, but you may be able to get a 3G LTE SIM.