updated 06:05 pm EDT, Wed August 4, 2010
Clearwire to test out 2.5GHz LTE late this year
Clearwire heightened competition in 4G this evening by saying it would start trials of LTE (Long Term Evolution) late this year. Tests in Phoenix, Arizona will check the viability of service on the existing 2.5GHz band Clearwire uses for WiMAX. The experiment will also check the possibility of dual-mode LTE and WiMAX devices and will often use the same Samsung base station equipment.
The trials should finish in early 2011 and are being watched by multiple other carriers from other countries since they also plan to use LTE on similar frequencies.
Often a partner of Sprint's own 4G rollouts, Clearwire still intends to use WiMAX for its current expansion and was adamant that LTE would be a complement to the primarily Intel-made wireless technology, not a direct replacement. The provider has repeatedly said its network is flexible and has considered LTE primarily a hedge to support more devices and prevent problems if WiMAX doesn't catch on.
The trial plans add another significant national provider to the range of those planning to use LTE. Verizon will be the first and should have its 700MHz 4G active by the end of the year, but both AT&T and T-Mobile are likely to deploy service sometime in 2011. MetroPCS and other more regional carriers have signed on as well. Sprint is the only one of the top four to hold to WiMAX in the US.
LTE is expected to get more traction worldwide as it's the official successor to HSPA-based 3G and is also technically superior. Peak speeds for the format run at 100Mbps where current WiMAX often tops out at 16Mbps or less. WiMAX 2 is in development and will bring 160Mbps, but it should launch only after most initial LTE services.