Surface 2 with LTE imminent as FCC gives approval

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If you've been holding out for a Surface 2 with LTE connectivity, you shouldn't have to wait much longer.

The FCC has approved a “portable computing device” from Microsoft, with a 10.6-inch display--the same screen size as the Surface 2--and support for AT&T's LTE and HSPA networks. Engadget first spotted the FCC filing.

The filing doesn't reveal anything about the LTE Surface 2 that we didn't know already. Panos Panay, Microosft's vice president in charge of Surface, revealed last fall that an LTE model was in the works, and said it would first land on AT&T in the United States and Vodafone in Europe. The company has yet to announce an exact release date or pricing for the Surface 2 with LTE.

It's unclear how many people have been holding out for an LTE model, especially now that most carriers allow you to use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot at no extra charge. But Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, said some users may be willing to pay to remove that extra step and avoid potentially draining the battery life of their phones.

“With the support of Office, Surface has found something more of an audience in business users, some of whom may be highly mobile professionals and would like to have that cellular connectivity option,” Rubin said.

Rubin doesn't think that Microsoft will do anything novel with pricing for the Surface 2 with LTE. It'll likely just be an additional up-front cost for the hardware, plus the monthly access cost ($10 per month with an AT&T shared data plan).

However, Microsoft could try to bundle the Surface 2 with a Windows Phone at a discount. Nokia already went that route with its Lumia 2520 tablet, giving buyers a $200 discount on select Nokia Windows Phones.

Unfortunately, prospective Surface Pro 2 buyers shouldn't bother holding out for an LTE model. Microsoft already ruled it out while announcing the Surface 2 with LTE last fall. The Surface 2 runs Microsoft's Windows RT operating system—which can't use traditional desktop software—and ships with Office 2013 RT preinstalled, while the Surface Pro 2 runs the full-blown version of Windows 8.

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