US WiMAX operator Clearwire has announced its intention to roll out a new fourth-generation network using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Clearwire, which launched national WiMAX services in September 2008, says that it will ‘target densely populated, urban areas of Clearwire’s existing 4G markets where current 4G usage demands are high’. Clearwire has indicated that the robust, all-IP infrastructure already deployed in its WiMAX markets will be leveraged to serve the company’s LTE needs, delivering significant capital cost savings, comparable to similar overlays carried out by operators using existing 3G architecture. Further, Clearwire has confirmed that the network will be ‘LTE-Advanced’-ready. The preliminary mobile communication standard LTE-Advanced was acknowledged by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in late-2009, and calls for peak download speeds of at least 100Mbps – which far exceeds those offered by today’s commercial networks.
Clearwire’s announcement follows the successful completion of LTE trials that achieved download speeds exceeding 120Mbps. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in August 2010 Clearwire announced that it would begin trials of LTE technology in Phoenix, Arizona starting in late 2010 and concluding in early 2011. Clearwire’s LTE implementation plan, which is subject to additional funding, is likely to involve the deployment of Time Division Duplex (TDD) LTE technology. John Stanton, Clearwire’s chairman and interim CEO, commented: ‘Clearwire plans to raise the bar again for mobile broadband service in the United States. 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’. Meanwhile, Dr. John Saw, Clearwire’s chief technology officer, added: ‘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. In addition, the 2.5GHz 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’.
Despite the announcement, Clearwire has restated its commitment to its existing 4G WiMAX network, which covers approximately 132 million people and serves 7.65 million retail and wholesale customers; Clearwire expects to end 2011 with approximately ten million WiMAX users.