Featured: AT&T Hopes Manufacturers Stop Making Wi-Fi Only Tablets

May 9, 2012 - Written By Mike Stenger

One of the largest carriers in the US, AT&T, says that manufacturers are slowing production of Wi-Fi only tablets as the cost of the hardware for cellular data continues to decrease. Or are they saying that because they’d like them to cease altogether? Probably a little bit of both. The reality is that if more devices are equipped with 3G and 4G capability, they’ll get more customers and business.

At the time being, most tablets sold are Wi-Fi only. Most people have no need for it (many can simply tether their smartphone’s data connection)  and also often times people mainly just use their device at home.

From Computerworld:

“All devices should have all capabilities built in from the beginning,” Lurie said. One reason that hasn’t become a reality is that the additional hardware has been too expensive in the past, he said. “The ecosystem was a little out of balance.”

Now, the cost of a 3G HSPA+ radio to device makers is only about $30 on an average, Lurie said. (However, the difference for an LTE radio is still around $60 to $70, he said.) As the cost premium gets thinner, he expects tablet lineups to consolidate on a single design with both cellular and Wi-Fi.

And that’s the problem. Speeds are increasing and consumers who are spending hundreds of dollars on a device, want the fastest speeds they can get. Cost is clearly still an issue for 4G LTE. Add to the fact that it uses up more battery power and manufacturers will have to put in more powerful batteries, something that will cost more money.

AT&T does have a good point, but as one user said in the comments, “They miss the point – AT&T.  I purchased an iPad specifically as WiFi ONLY since I did not want to get stuck with an “extra” data plan – one is enough for my phone. I am not here to subsidize the wireless carrier.  I more than enjoy my Wifi Only tablet and have no problems finding Wifi spots, and sure don’t need something other than wireless at my home.”

Until the cost for an LTE radio drops down to the same price range as 3G which could easily take a couple years, there will still be Wi-Fi only tablets. Sorry AT&T.