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Clearwire To Add LTE To Boost 4G Data Speeds

8/04/2011 10:37:06 AM Eastern
Kirkland, Wash. - Wireless carrier Clearwireannounced plans to add 4G LTE technology to its 4G mobile WiMAX network as soon as it can get additional funding.

The money-losing carrier cited successful trials in which it used LTE technology on its spectrum to deliver peak download speeds of 120Mbps, handily exceeding the speed of its current network and competitors' current and planned LTE networks, the company claimed. Capital expenses would be minimized because the company would be able to reuse its existing IP-based infrastructure and upgrade only its base station radios and some core network elements, Clearwire added.

The company also said it must deploy an LTE network alongside mobile WiMAX "to remain competitive." Analysts noted that LTE technology will dominate future 4G deployments worldwide.

Once it gets funding for the LTE rollout, the company could complete an LTE rollout within 12 months of starting, a spokesman told TWICE. The company would initially target high-demand areas in its current 4G markets.

The company, which sells service wholesale to Sprint and others, would continue to offer mobile WiMax service to support existing subscribers. Sprint owns just less than a majority of Clearwire shares.

"The 120Mbps we measured is indicative of what the technology, coupled with our spectrum depth, can deliver," the spokesman said. "We expect that our commercial customers will get speeds that will far exceed what is being delivered today and our spectrum depth will give us the ability to sustain these speeds for them."

Because of the amount of spectrum that Clearwire owns, Clearwire's LTE network will not only deliver higher speeds but "serve more customers at higher speeds" than competing LTE networks, the spokesman continued. "Our spectrum depth is the key differentiator."

Although the carrier would launch with a form of LTE called TDD-LTE, the system architecture would support a changeover to the new LTE Advanced that could further accelerate data rates.

The company's already deployed all-IP infrastructure delivers "significant capital cost savings compared to a similar overlay by other carriers of an existing 3G architecture," the company noted.

Another reason for adding LTE is that the company's 2.5GHz spectrum "is widely allocated worldwide for 4G deployments, enabling a potentially robust, cost effective and global ecosystem that could serve billions of devices," said chief technology officer John Saw, underscoring the growing popularity of LTE for 4G deployments worldwide. "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."

The rollout would include the use of multicarrier wideband radios that would enable the network to aggregate bands of spectrum not close to one another. That capability is a key element that makes the network LTE Advanced-ready, the company said.

LTE Advanced is a 4G technical standard that calls for peak download mobile speeds of at least 100Mbps, Clearwire said. It also promises to deliver peak speeds of 1Gbps for fixed mobile broadband services.

Clearwire's existing 4G WiMAX network covers geographic areas with a combined population of around 132 million people. A total of 7.65 million retail and wholesale customers are on the network, including Sprint 4G subscribers. The company said it expects to end 2011 with approximately 10 million 4G customers.
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