If Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad upgrade indeed comes with a boost to the long-term evolution (LTE) mode, wireless carriers whose systems are ready for it could benefit.
The reason is that huge amounts of new data might move through what the Cupertino, Calif. company terms its iCloud. But consumers of whatever upgrade to the iPad 2 is announced will need the right networks.
That may be a reason why shares of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) jumped 18 cents Wednesday to close at $38.87. The New York telecommunications giant owns 60 percent of Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. carrier, with nearly 110 million customers.
Most of the Verizon Wireless network is ready for LTE but only a fraction of consumers have signed up for the service.
Not to be outdone, No. 2 AT&T (NYSE: T) is also ready to cash in. The Dallas company's shares rose 15 cents to clsoe at $30.88, not much below their 52-week high. AT&T has about 103 million customers.
Last week, in a move that looks like it anticipated the Apple upgrade, AT&T raised prices for its top data users and set up new fees for them. A new AT&T plan offers 3 gigabytes of monthly data for $30, with another offering 5 gigabytes costs $50.
AT&T suggested heavy users could see streaming data throttled or slowed down to a trickle, unless they switch to a wi-fi network. iPad users already are able to view video from the iCloud; an upgraded product might make the problem worse.
AT&T anticipated this problem last year and tried to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom (Pink: DTEGY), which had a better network. The move fizzled after the Obama Administration filed antitrust charges.
Apple's newest wireless reseller, Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) may also benefit. Its shares rose 3 cents in early trading to $2.42. The Overland Park, Kansas carrier, with 55 million subscribers, has made a heavy financial commitment to Apple. That commitment could cost Sprint as much as $20 billion through 2016.
Meanwhile, shares of Apple, which set an all-time high of $548.21 on March 1, rose $4.63 to $534.89 in early trading.