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