Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms

CHICAGO -- 4G World -- Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) has launched its Silicon Valley WiMax test network as the firm's new CEO says that Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology could be in its future.

The plan to develop a WiMax Silicon Valley "sandbox" that would give developers a chance to experience WiMax in the air was unveiled in April. The Kirkland, Wash.-based operator launched the network today, saying that it will cover more than 20 square miles in Santa Clara, Mountain View, and parts of downtown Palo Alto, California. (See Clearwire Plays in 4G Sandbox.)

The network will eventually become part of Clearwire's Bay Area commercial launch, which is slated for 2010. (See WiMax's Bay Window and Clearwire Launches in 10 New Markets.)

New Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow will likely have more controversial issues to deal with during his keynote here today in Chicago, however. The new WiMax head honcho told Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday that Clearwire could use LTE if it wanted to in the future.

This shouldn't be a huge surprise for any Unstrung readers. WiMax and LTE are based on the same underlying radio technology and have a great deal in common. Also, previous Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff had suggested something similar. (See WiMax & LTE: Kissin' Cousins.) In fact, in terms of network infrastructure requirements for such a shift, at least one of Clearwire's radio access providers, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), has based its LTE base stations on its previously developed WiMax platform. This means that Clearwire could simply do a software upgrade to move to LTE. (See Moto Joins LTE Club, Moto Supports WiMax, LTE, Motorola Enlists Starent for 4G Push, Moto Trials LTE in UK, Moto Demos TV-Over-LTE in Sweden, and 4G World: LTE Climbs on WiMax's Shoulders.)

The one issue then -- and it is a big issue -- is whether the operator could find LTE devices that operate on its 2.5 GHz spectrum footprint. Users with early 700 MHz gadgets aren't likely to be able to switch between the two, although that might change over time.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Halichopter 12/5/2012 | 3:56:26 PM
re: Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms

For Clearwire to 'software switch' to LTE, there will also need to be TDD (time division duplex) LTE equipment, LTE so far has been FDD (frequency division duplex).


LTE which is TDD will have most of the characteristics of WiMAX so why switch?

Halichopter 12/5/2012 | 3:56:24 PM
re: Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms

Yes, 'in the works' but I doubt you can find any equipment. I haven't worked on this for about 6 months so there may be more out there than I am aware of.

But I totally agree, a user doesn't care what the underlying technology is but he does care about cost. I think Clearwire is saying this because LTE is expected to be much higher volume (lower cost). However Clearwire has to live with the spectrum they have so you need to create an LTE profile that works with what they have. Then are you really at high volume or are you specialized enough to be back into WiMAX volumes?

joset01 12/5/2012 | 3:56:24 PM
re: Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms Good point, they'd need a TDD profile, but that's in the works, right?

Anyhow, if I was a cynical person I'd say that Clearwire periodically reminds that it *could* use LTE because investors seem to like it. I don't personally believe that users give a damn about LTE or WiMax, they just want it to work.
IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 3:56:18 PM
re: Clearwire Testing in Silicon Valley as LTE Looms

Looking out a few years there’s an expectation that dual-mode TDD/FDD devices will be available for LTE. 

The challenge is frequencies. The hope is it will be viable to build devices around an LTE ecosystem that spans 2.6 GHz TDD/FDD (e.g. Europe/Asia) and 2.3 GHz TDD (esp. China/Asia)—presumably this could also incorporate 2.5 GHz TDD. 

Transceiver and RF front-end technology is capable of this, apparently. The chipset vendors ‘just’ need to know the exact requirements (and potential volumes) before they invest the development and testing resources.

 All that said, it seems like products suitable for mass-market are still a few years away.

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