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Apple designed the iPad for comprehensive connectivity. The Wi-Fi + 3G model begins at $629 for the 16 gigabyte edition. Users who want to keep connected to the Web will pay $14.99 monthly at minimum, up to $29.99 for an unlimited data plan.
With the way Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook defended AT&T (NYSE: T ) during Apple's earnings call on Monday, no one should be surprised to see the carrier assigned the job of delivering data to the iPad. (Though no contract is required.)
Of all the carriers, Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT ) T-Mobile is acting the most desperate. It's also the one Apple could have helped most by designing the iPad for its GSM network. The iEmpire went with its old pal, AT&T, instead.
That's also bad news for Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , which has long been rumored as a future Apple i-partner. But T-Mobile takes the bigger hit of the two. Verizon has a huge network and a big partnership with Research In Motion (NYSE: RIMM ) and other handset providers. T-Mobile, by contrast, is left with Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) soft-selling Nexus One.
How to play it
For as much as I've made out of shorting the entire telecom industry, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that AT&T is an interesting play on the iPad.
This week's earnings report makes clear that the former Ms. Bell has every intention of moving feature phone customers up-market to either the iPhone or some other data-consuming device. Fixed-fee data plans -- precisely the sort you can buy with the iPad -- could yield healthy profits, so long as AT&T's network is up for the task of delivering a tsunami of bits.
Do you agree? Disagree? Make your voice heard using the comment box below, then check out the rest of our series on how the iPad could change the world.