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Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor
6/5/2009
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Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is promising to launch three more of what it calls "4G" markets this summer, piggybacking on the mobile WiMax infrastructure from Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) that the carrier uses to provide the mobile broadband service.

A spokeswoman for Sprint emails Unstrung that "4G will be available in Portland, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and other markets this summer." This follows Clearwire's recent "soft" launch of its Clear service in Atlanta and Las Vegas. (See Clearwire Goes Soft in Vegas and Clear Is in Atlanta.)

It's not 4G?
Like Clearwire and rival Verizon Wireless , Sprint is referring to its mobile broadband service as "4G." Strictly speaking, however, neither mobile WiMax nor Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology meets the download requirements to actually qualify as a fourth-generation wireless network.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's official requirements for 4G include average downlink speeds of 100 Mbit/s in the wide area network, and up to 1 Gbit/s for local access or low mobility scenarios. Sprint says that its current WiMax network in Baltimore offers peak download speeds of 12 Mbit/s. (See WiMax & LTE Meet the Real World for more on WiMax and LTE speeds.)

The next versions of WiMax and LTE are expected to meet the ITU's requirements to be classed as a 4G technology. The ITU approved both 802.16m and LTE-Advanced as potential 4G specs back in July 2008. (See ITU Approves New 4G Specs.)

8 XOHMs to go
Sprint is working as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) over Clearwire's infrastructure, offering customers a dualmode USB modem so that they can switch between Sprint's 3G CDMA network and the mobile network. So far, however, Sprint only has one mobile WiMax network, its XOHM site in Baltimore. (See Clearwire Considering WiMax Polygamy .)

"Not for long," says the Sprint spokeswoman. In all, the third-ranked U.S. operator hopes to go commercial with eight dualmode markets in 2009, including Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

Of course, with its dualmode approach, sourcing devices that can run across both networks is an important part of the operator's strategy. Unstrung first reported in March that the operator has a number of devices on its roadmap for 2009 and 2010, including a tri-mode phone that would support CDMA, WiMax, and WiFi. (See Sprint to Extend '4G' in Clearwire Markets.)

Among the other devices planned are "a singlemode 4G data card, embedded laptops, small-office-home-office devices, and a personal hotspot router," the spokeswoman says. All of these are planned for this year or 2010, she notes, but the operator isn't releasing any further details yet.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:17 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


Thanks to a loaner from the Sprint folks we were able to test-drive the hybrid card a bit while in Vegas for CTIA -- see our post here -- initial impressions were fairly favorable, seems to work as advertised. It does get a bit warm, however... might want to let it cool down before detaching from laptop (or use it to warm coffee).

kaps
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kaps,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:17 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


Thanks to a loaner from the Sprint folks we were able to test-drive the hybrid card a bit while in Vegas for CTIA -- see our post here -- initial impressions were fairly favorable, seems to work as advertised. It does get a bit warm, however... might want to let it cool down before detaching from laptop (or use it to warm coffee).

IPobserver
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IPobserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:14 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


Got any links to genuine user reviews of Sprint / ClearWire Mobile WiMax?


Could look myself, I guess, but lazy web is the new thing.


Thanks.

jkbelk
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jkbelk,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:12 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


Gabriel:

Real user reviews??  HAH!  Try doing some google searches on WiMax Field Trial results, WiMax real world performance, wimax integration issues, wimax interop issues (remeber, there are always 'issues' and until 'issues' get solved, 'reality'is suspect').  It's really tough to find anything...it might be out there, but tough to find real stuff.

We're now in 2009, and I find the lack of 'real' information on WiMax staggering, especially when it's the same crowd that RIPPED me in 2005 when I suggested it would be 2007 or even 2008 before WiMax started ramping globally, as they thought it would be 2006!  It's interesting (and validating) that the LTE crowd is talking about metrics, talking about issues, talking about performance, talking about pitfalls (LTE voice for example)...this the way real ecosystems get rolling, not by years of powerpoint fluff.


Time to review what I put voluminously out to the world, vs. what has happened...remember my WhyMax piece?


Jeff Belk

freetoair
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freetoair,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:06 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


You are right.


It is because (1) Intel controls it with a very tight fist (remember the KT book being confiscated at trade show in Seoul? which I doubt it had real deep performance data anyway)and (2) vendors do not want to put it out there as most have half-baked crap anyway...so why put it out.


Propoganda is laughable...deployed in X countrines, X operators covering X pops -- but no stat on the actual # of pops (perhpas with a few exceptions like KT, Clearwire(most all are fixed BTW)).

IPobserver
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IPobserver,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:03:03 PM
re: Sprint: How Soon Is '4G Now'?


Here's what Lazy Web has thrown up so far -- a review by Gizmondo


It compares WiMax with EVDO. Worth a read once you get past the "Top Gear" writing style.


"It's hard to conceive of harnessing that much bandwidth wirelessly while sitting outside a shopping center... Having reviewed gadgets for almost a decade, I sometimes have to fake excitement that I may not truly feel in my loins" -- phwoar!


Via Jose Puthenkulam (@wimax360blogger)


Hi Jeff, Yes, I remember reading your WhyMax? paper.

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