Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck
Sprint, which uses Clearwire's WiMax network for its 4G service, currently operates it in 43 markets. Clearwire has so far said that it plans to cover around 120 million people across the US by the end of 2010 and is promising launches in major markets like the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City by that time.
Verizon Wireless is promising to start its LTE service in the fourth quarter. The operator will need to launch in many major cities to hit its plan to cover 100 million potential customers by the end of the year. Verizon, however, isn't commenting on a report from Engadget that November 15 is the day that its initial LTE services will go commercial.
A limited November launch is a possibility, according to Heavy Reading's Berge Ayvazian. "I know Verizon is pushing to launch LTE in as many markets as possible before year-end," notes the senior consultant. "November 15 is possible -- but it will mean fewer markets."
This, he suggests, will up the pressure on Sprint and Clearwire to make wireless broadband available in major markets like NYC and San Francisco. "Clearwire will need to be commercial in the top markets by then for sure," Ayvazian says.
Sprint and Clearwire will continue to have one advantage over Verizon's early LTE service: the operators can offer smartphones that support WiMax and CDMA services. Sprint already has the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) EVO and will launch a Samsung Corp. 4G phone later this year. Verizon isn't expecting to have LTE smartphones until sometime in the first half of 2011.
Of course, neither of the networks actually qualifies as a true 4G network under the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) 's definition of 4G. These requirements 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. (See ITU Approves New 4G Specs.)
Verizon says its LTE network will offer average data download speeds of between 5 and 12 Mbit/s by the end of 2010. Clearwire offers around 6-Mbit/s downlinks with bursts up to 10 Mbit/s. (See Counting Down to LTE.)
However, "4G" is now clearly becoming a marketing buzzword in the US. Even T-Mobile US Inc. says that its latest 3G network update will offer "4G speeds." (See T-Mobile USA Expands HSPA+.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile