While not saying it in so many words, it looks like 4G WiMAX provider Clearwire is chucking that technology moving forward and joining the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) bandwagon in the United States.
The carrier now says it will add "LTE Advanced-ready" technology first to its 4G WiMAX markets following tests that showed download speeds exceeding 120 Mbps. According to the carrier, LTE Advanced is a 4G technical standard that calls for peak download mobile speeds of at least 100 Mbps. As such, Clearwire says its LTE network will be "LTE Advanced-ready, meaning that it will use an ultra-high-capacity spectrum configuration that is superior to the typical configuration of the slower, more capacity-constrained commercial LTE network designs in the United States of today.”
"Clearwire plans to raise the bar again for mobile broadband service in the United States," says John Stanton, Clearwire’s chairman and interim CEO. "Our leadership in launching 4G services forced a major change in the competitive mobile-data landscape. Now we plan to bring our considerable spectrum portfolio to bear to deliver an LTE network capable of meeting the future demands of the market."
Adds CTO Dr. John Saw, "This is the future of mobile broadband. "Our extensive trial has clearly shown that our ‘LTE Advanced-ready’ network design, which leverages our
deep spectrum with wide channels, can achieve far greater speeds and capacity than any other network that exists today. Clearwire is the only carrier with the unencumbered spectrum portfolio required to achieve this level of speed and capacity in the United States."
He continues, "In addition, the 2.5 GHz spectrum band in which we operate is widely allocated worldwide for 4G deployments, enabling a potentially robust, cost-effective and global ecosystem that could serve billions of devices. We anticipate that the economies of scale derived from this global ecosystem will act as a catalyst for the development of thousands of low-cost devices and applications.”
Saw also took a swipe at beleaguered 4G startup Lightsquared (see related story in this issue) by noting, “And, since we currently support millions of customers in the 2.5 GHz band, we know that our LTE network won’t present harmful interference issues with GPS or other sensitive spectrum bands."
And all it takes is money. Clearwire’s LTE implementation plan will need more financing, and company officials already are weighing the options, which could include a renewed effort to sell unused spectrum (although this has failed in the past). If it does secure deployment cash, Clearwire could go with Time Division Duplex (TDD) LTE technology, thus reusing its flexible all-IP network architecture and upgrading base station radios and some core network elements. This could save the carrier money as well.
Such an implementation would include using multicarrier, or multichannel, wideband radios that will be carrier-aggregation capable. “Carrier aggregation is a key feature of LTE Advanced that will enable Clearwire to further leverage its vast spectrum depth to create larger “fat pipes” for deploying mobile broadband service,” it explains.
Clearwire is quick to reiterate it will not leave its current WiMAX customers stranded in light of this new (but not unexpected) technology decision. The carrier WiMAX offering currently covers approximately 132 million people while serving 7.65 million retail and wholesale customers and some 110 WiMAX-enabled devices. It anticipates serving approximately 10 million 4G customers by year’s end.