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Rumor: Verizon installing LTE equipment at Apple Stores ahead of 'iPad 3'

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Verizon Wireless is rumored to have begun installing LTE network equipment at Apple's retail stores in preparation for the arrival of the third-generation iPad.

Multiple sources have claimed recently that Apple will announce 4G LTE support for the new iPad at a media event on Wednesday. The rumor was bolstered by a teaser from Verizon on Tuesday that said "something is coming" and allowed interested customers to sign-up to learn more.

Cult of Mac now reports that Verizon has been hard at work installing LTE equipment at Apple's retail locations "over the last couple days." Further details on the project, however, remained scarce.

Separately, AppleInsider heard from tipsters last month that Verizon was sending "plain clothes contractors" to upgrade the network infrastructure at certain Apple Stores, though those reports remain as yet unconfirmed.

Verizon has emerged as the LTE market leader in the U.S. with a 4G network that covers 200 million customers. Rival AT&T, the only other company to have built an LTE network in America, had reached 74 million people with its own 4G offerings as of the end of 2011.

According to Reuters, Apple intends the move to LTE to "tempt" customers into paying more to watch "high-quality video on the go." A 4G-capable iPad could potentially reach download speeds up to 10 times faster than current 3G models.

As Apple's media event has approached, some analysts have weighed in on the likelihood of an LTE iPad. Sterne Agee's Shaw Wu cited sources as saying Apple has made "notable progress" on improving battery life for 4G devices. A large percentage of LTE smartphones and tablets currently on the market have received negative feedback due to rapid battery drain when 4G is enabled.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said last year that the company had held off on introducing LTE because it required too many "design compromises." Next-generation chipsets from Qualcomm have reportedly addressed some of the issues that Apple had with the technology and may be ready for inclusion in the company's touchscreen tablet.

AppleInsider will have full, live coverage of Apple's media event, which takes place on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern.