Could Clearwire Help T-Mobile Find a 4G Fit?

DT is reportedly interested in investing in Clearwire for spectrum access, but it would still take time to deploy next-gen services

Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

September 23, 2009

2 Min Read
Could Clearwire Help T-Mobile Find a 4G Fit?

A reported Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) investment in Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) wouldn't provide its subsidiary, T-Mobile US Inc. , with a smooth and easy path to next-generation wireless broadband services, according to Unstrung's analysis of the companies' spectrum holdings.

A Bloomberg report suggests that DT is in "preliminary discussions" with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) about making investments so that T-Mobile could potentially use its spectrum for so-called "4G" services.

Of the two operators, MetroPCS is a better fit from the spectrum perspective; both it and T-Mobile operate services on the 1700 MHz AWS band and 1900 MHz PCS band. Clearwire, through its deal with Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), has nationwide holdings of 2.4 GHz spectrum.

This means that if T-Mobile were to use Clearwire spectrum to deploy a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network (or if Clearwire eventually converted to LTE), it would either have to offer users LTE-only devices or wait for dualmode devices that house radios to support the multiple frequencies it would need.

The Clearwire spectrum holdings are also better suited to technologies that support Time Division Duplexing (TDD) modulation schemes that use a single channel up and down for radio communications. Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) are both deploying their LTE networks in 700 MHz spectrum that supports traditional Frequency Division Duplexing two-channel communications.

There isn't yet an official TDD profile for LTE, although work is happening on one. China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) is expected to use LTE TDD in its network in the 2011-12 time frame.

So, the technology differences between Clearwire and T-Mobile USA aren't insurmountable, but a DT play for 2.5 GHz spectrum would be a long-term investment rather than a quick fix for an LTE push.

Certainly, an investment would be good for Clearwire, which has said that it needs $2 billion more to complete its nationwide rollout. (See Clearwire Is a WiMax Company (For Now).)— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

About the Author(s)

Dan Jones

Mobile Editor

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials.

But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the Light Reading team in 2002 he was an award-winning cult hit on Broadway (with four 'Toni' awards, two 'Emma' gongs and a 'Brian' to his name) with his one-man show, "Dan Sings the Show Tunes."

His perfectly crafted blogs, falling under the "Jonestown" banner, have been compared to the works of Chekhov. But only by Dan.

He lives in Brooklyn with cats.

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