The FCC approved the iPad on Friday, just in time for the device to be sold legally in the United States. The lengthy application
was partially held confidential by the US regulatory agency, as is often the case to protect trade secrets, so there were few blockbuster revelations. However, the documents confirmed that new device will support dual-band WiFi and AT&T's faster HSPA standard, and that the part number for the Wi-Fi + 3G model would be A1337.
All new devices that emit electromagnetic energy must receive approval from the US Federal Communication Commission before they can be sold in the United States. It's a fairly laborious process to test the device to show that it adheres to the required standards limiting interference and potentially unsafe emissions, and to fill out and send the required documents to the FCC. It usually takes manufacturers weeks to complete the process, and so information often enters the public record before a device is ever available.
Not so with Apple. The secretive company timed its submission so that the approval was received just as preorders began on Friday. While there are no secrets revealed by the application, it does show details about the WiFi and 3G models that had not yet been confirmed by Apple.
A fairly significant revelation is that the iPad will support dual-band 802.11n WiFi, in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. This is potentially a very valuable feature, as the 2.4 GHz band has become increasingly congested with the proliferation of 802.11a/b/g WiFi hotspots. With more and more WiFi-enabled devices entering the market (and Apple reportedly sold 100,000 iPads yesterday alone), wireless networks and hotspots will have an increasing need for spectrum The 5 GHz band, which can only be accessed by 802.11a and dual-band 802.11n devices like the iPad and Apple's Airport Extreme, will provide less crowded spectrum and offer room for growth.
The 3G model (part number A1337 in either a coincidence or a shout out to old-school phreakers
) was revealed to have support for AT&T's GSM and UMTS/HSDPA protocols in the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands. AT&T is in the process of rolling out faster 7.2 Mbps HSDPA, which is supported by the iPhone 3GS and the iPad, a process it says will be complete sometime in 2011. Some tests run by Engadget last year, however, showed little speed improvement
over the older 3.6 Mbps network.
According to specs released as part of the application, the 3G model is very slightly larger - 0.3mm taller and 0.1mm wider - than the WiFi only model, possibly because of the 3G antenna panel on the top of the device. The difference shouldn't matter, though some tightly-fitting cases may need to be released in two versions to cover the two models