Aussie telcos gear up for iPad release

Major Australian telcos likely to release micro-SIMs for iPad

A prototype micro-SIM card

A prototype micro-SIM card

Australian telcos have expressed interest in releasing micro-SIMs compatible with the recently announced Apple iPad.

The 3G version of the iPad will be sold by Apple without a mobile contract, so it can be used on any Australian mobile carrier over GSM and 7.2Mbps HSDPA radio frequencies. However, the iPad uses a micro-SIM rather than the conventional full-sized SIM card used in the iPhone and all current Australian mobile phones. Micro-SIMs, or 3FF (Third Form Factor) smart cards, are almost half the length of a conventional SIM card and aren't currently available from any telco in Australia.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia was the first Australian telco to officially announce interest in the iPad, issuing a press release on the same day that Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the tablet. "Vodafone Hutchinson Australia (VHA) is very interested in the Apple iPad unveiled in the US today," read the statement. "Vodafone Hutchison Australia will soon commence discussions with Apple regarding the availability of the Apple iPad in Australia"; the tablet would "a welcome addition" to the telco's product range.

A spokesperson for Optus told GoodGearGuide that the telco had "commenced testing of micro-SIMs for use on our network" but refused to comment on whether the telco would sell the iPad. The telco will release micro-SIMs "as and when compatible devices become available."

"Just as the iPhone had a huge impact on the way people use their mobile phone, we expect the iPad to be another great innovation for consumers," the spokesperson said. "We welcome the launch of the Apple iPad and look forward to its availability in the Australian market."

Telstra did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

The micro-SIM standard was agreed upon by telecommunication standards body ETSI in 2003, but so far only GPS manufacturer Lok8u is known to use the format in consumer devices. CNET UK reports that the two SIM form factors are electrically identical, meaning only the extra plastic on conventional SIM cards prevents users from inserting a larger card into an iPad.

Apple is planning a worldwide release of the iPad in March. A 3G-equipped version is slated for an April release, but only in the US "and selected countries," according to a press release from the company. No plans have been revealed for an Australian release of the 3G-equipped iPad.

"We hope to have our international deals in place in the June, July timeframe," CEO Steve Jobs said during the iPad press conference. "We think we can probably do a lot of them by June. We're going to start on that tomorrow."

International pricing for the iPad is yet to be announced.

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James Hutchinson

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