In a bit of confusing news, Sprint partner Clearwire, which has been a staunch supporter of WiMax technology for 4G mobile broadband, has announced that it will be deploying LTE Advanced, the fastest form of 4G LTE available, in the U.S. with speeds capable of 100 Mbps. This would be nearly a 10-fold increase over Verizon’s quoted 6-12 Mbps network. It’s unclear if the LTE Advanced network download speeds that Clearwire is announcing would be theoretical speeds or based on real world usage; Verizon’s network claims is based on real world usage.
Interestingly enough, Clearwire/Sprint’s 4G LTE Advanced network, when it goes live, will be the first true 4G network according to the original definition of 4G. Initial definition of 4G had limited 4G to LTE Advanced and did not include the basic LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+ technologies that are defined today as 4G.
News of Clearwire adopting 4G LTE Advanced comes on the heels of its partner Sprint signing an agreement with Lightsquared for potential 4G LTE deployment. It’s unclear how the announcement made by Clearwire, of which Sprint has a majority investment stake, would have on Sprint’s ongoing and future partnership with Lightsquared.
The announcement at least answers the question of what Clearwire has been doing for much of 2011. While rivals Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, and AT&T have all announced or are actively expanding their 4G markets or network speeds, Clearwire has not really made any significant announcements. It looks like the reason behiund this is due to concentrated efforts in planning a 4G LTE network.
According to Clearwire, to save money, the company will overlay 4G LTE on top of its existing 4G WiMax network. The network plans are contingent on funding, however, and Clearwire will target densely populated areas first.
With greater expenditure in network equipment and deployment of LTE, it’d be interesting to see if Sprint can continue to afford to charge for unlimited 4G data or if the carrier will be forced to go the way of bigger rivals AT&T and Verizon in switching to a tiered data plan. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse had promised that exciting 4G news will be coming this fall, and perhaps a Sprint-Clearwire announcement on LTE devices will be made. This would fall in line with previous speculations that a 4G LTE network could be live in 2012 on Sprint’s Now Network.