With the speculated release date of Apple's next generation tablet - dubbed iPad 3 - drawing near (iMore and AllThingsD are betting on an early March release while the Verge believes that iPad 3 could debut as early as Feb. 29), everybody must be wondering whether the iPad 3 will support 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). Let's examine the possibility.

4G is the latest, fastest and most advanced network with lightning speed, up to 10 times faster than 3G. With the help of 4G LTE, the users can instantaneously download all kinds of data, including, movies, games, apps, and more.

4G has even been described as MAGIC, the abbreviation of mobile multimedia, anytime anywhere, global mobility support, integrated wireless solution, and customized personal service.

To gain more marketshare, the leading electronics manufacturers have started releasing devices that can support 4G technology, especially after Verizon and AT&T launched 4G LTE networks and Sprint rolled out its 4G WiMax network. Some of the tablets now supporting 4G network are Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9, Motorola Droid Xyboard, Motorola Xoom, HTC EVO View, HTC Jetstream, and Acer Iconic Tab A501.

It means only Android tablet users have been able to enjoy 4G network till now. No wonder, Apple fans are expecting the forthcoming iPad 3 to have built-in 4G LTE capability when it releases.

Moreover, Apple fans haven't really been swayed by the new 14.4 Mbps HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) Apple’s iPhone 4S supports. The tech giant claims it puts iPhone 4S in the realm of its 4G LTE rivals but the American users won't be able to benefit much from the update for not all the domestic carriers support it, according to Apple Insider.

So what are the chances of iPad 3 supporting 4G network? We would say, it's very high. In fact, we'd be very surprised if iPad 3 debuts without 4G LTE option.

Why? There are two main reasons.

Firstly, it is because Apple can't afford to ignore the U.S. – the tech giant's biggest market - and only focus on Europe, Asia and other markets. Apple can't just let iPad users look longingly at Android tablet users enjoy 4G speed. If Apple is to keep ahead of the pack in the tablet race, it needs to make all efforts to secure the American market by launching a new iPad that must include the option to run on 4G LTE networks.

Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal reported last Tuesday that the iPad 3 will sport 4G LTE technology, allowing the new tablet to connect with the much faster networks on AT&T and Verizon, according to people familiar with the matter. If the report is true, the iPad 3 will be the hottest tablet in the market, partly due to 4G network.

Secondly, Apple has no excuse not to equip its devices with 4G chip. Before the current iPhone 4S was unveiled last October, Apple fans were expecting the new smartphone to be a 4G device. But they were left disappointed by the fact that it was not. HuffPost reported that in January 2011, Tim Cook (he was then the COO) had dismissed speculations that Apple's devices would support 4G, because the thicker chip would force design compromises we're not willing to make. At the time of launch of iPhone 4S, there was no 4G chip compatible with Apple devices.

However, the situation has changed now. Soon after iPhone 4S was released in the market, Qualcomm had issued a press release, announcing the commercial availability of their Gobi 4000 chips for 4G LTE and HSPA+ capable devices. According to the announcement, the new chip was shipping to OEMs at that time, suggesting the next generation iPad might be 4G LTE-capable. In other words, a compatible Qualcomm chipset - thinner and smaller one – is now available.

Hence, several sites, including like CNET and Bloomberg strongly believe that the iPad 3 will support the 4G LTE network.

Meanwhile, CNET also reported Verizon as saying that almost every smartphone will run on 4G LTE. It suggests that it's feasible for the iPad, albeit the fact it's a tablet, to support the technology also.

In conclusion, there's no reason to think iPad 3 will not support 4G LTE network. Which means, finally, iPad fans will be able to watch streaming movies and play streaming games while on the move.

 What do you think? Will you buy iPad 3 if it does not support 4G? Leave your comments below.