If you purchased or plan to buy the Apple iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G connectivity, then you probably need a data plan to connect to the Internet. The 3G model lets you travel away from Wi-Fi hotspots and always have a data connection available. Owning the 3G model is ideal if you travel a lot or intend to use the iPad away from your home. In the United States, you can get the iPad 3G models from either AT&T or Verizon Wireless.
AT&T iPad Data Plans
If you want to have data service for your iPad on the AT&T network, then you will have to buy the AT&T iPad model. The Verizon model will not work with the AT&T network. AT&T offers only two data plans, which are $15 per month for 250MB or $25 for 2GB as of April 2011. The 250MB plan is perfect for the casual traveler, who has frequent access to Wi-Fi hotspots around the city and at home. The 2GB plan is ideal for someone who is away from a home Internet connection more often and needs to access time-sensitive information like news, emails and business documents.
AT&T has a large coverage area for their data network with very few troubled areas. Some areas on the outskirts of major metropolitan centers receive spotty coverage, mainly because the network towers are closer to city centers. You can check the AT&T coverage map for your area by to their website or going into an AT&T retail store near you.
Verizon iPad Data Plans
Buy the Verizon iPad model if you prefer using the Verizon Wireless network for accessing the Internet while traveling. Verizon offers a wider selection of data plans, but at a steeper cost to the consumer. As of April 2011, Verizon's iPad data plans include $20 for 1GB, $35 for 3GB, $50 for 5GB and $80 for 10GB. The 1GB plan is a good starter package if you are not sure how much data you will consume on a monthly basis. You can always upgrade at a later time. If you feel you'll use a lot of data while you're away from home, then you should choose the 3GB or 5GB plan. Only heavy users who continually use their iPad throughout the day should go with the 10GB data plan.
The Verizon data network is the largest in the United States with over 50 million active users. Verizon data users rarely report connectivity issues on the 3G network. If you do experience problems connecting to the network, then Verizon's customer service is available on the phone to assist you from 6am to 11pm.
Both AT&T and Verzion Wireless do not charge an activation fee for using the data connection on your iPad device. As of April 2011, the initial cost of the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G over the Wi-Fi only models is approximately $130 more. Take this into consideration when deciding to purchase the iPad tablet computer. If you are not willing to pay the extra $130, then save the money plus data charges by going with the iPad Wi-Fi model instead.
As of April 2011, the convenient thing about buying the iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G connectivity is that you can pay month-to-month for the data subscription. This means you can activate the data service only when you need it. To subscribe for data service, you will have to enter your name, address and credit card information directly from the iPad. Both AT&T and Verizon let you cancel the subscription at any time and use only the data you paid for.