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4G/3G/WiFi

Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

Verizon Wireless 's push to have up to 30 Long Term Evolution (LTE) markets up and running in the US in the fourth quarter of this year will mean that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) -- with its partner, Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) -- will soon no longer be the only operator that can claim a so-called "4G" network in the US.

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

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 4:28:47 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

When heard T-Mobile's John Horn speak, he used 4G and HSPA+ interchangeably and repeatedly said that HSPA+ is faster than WiMax. He said there was a "debate" over whether HSPA+ is 3G or 4G, but if so it's only amongst marketers.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:28:46 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

It'll be interesting to see the average download speeds are on 21 Mbit/s HSPA+ compared to LTE.

bergea 12/5/2012 | 4:28:46 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

There won't be any broadband caps on 4G services based on WiMAX and LTE.  AT&T has no choice but to ration its mobile broadband capacity and ultimatelty T-Mobile will be forced to cap HSPA+ as well.  But neither Sprint or Verizon Wireless will place caps on their respective 4G services, and they will charge users a premium for this unbridled performance. 


Sprint was first with 4G service and smartphones and Verizon will be first with LTE.  As operators achieve parity on 4G speed, the next race will be for best coverage - nationwide, metro and in-building.  Care to place a bet on who will win that race?

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:28:46 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

What good is the "faster" speed if it includes data caps? Shouldn't any rankings include capacity as well as speed, if we are going to be talking about a race where someone is breathing down someone's neck?


Just like with horses... speed is important but you gotta go the distance, too.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:28:46 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

What good is the "faster" speed if it includes data caps? Shouldn't any rankings include capacity as well as speed, if we are going to be talking about a race where someone is breathing down someone's neck?


Just like with horses... speed is important but you gotta go the distance, too.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:28:45 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

When does this first race end? End of 2010? June of 2011? We could set multiple betting lines and let the audience play along... award prizes for guessing who offers the most bandwidth per buck, who hits 100 M POPs first... of course verification will be the key. Without accurate coverage maps we may be left to trusting providers that they are "covering" the markets they say they are. Not sure that is a good measure -- we need something better than say, those red vs. blue TV "maps" commercials.


As far as there not being a "cap" on LTE services... tiered pricing, metered pricing, call it what you will. It will be interesting to see how Verizon's LTE pricing stacks up, bit-per-buck, with other offerings. Think we need a new metric other than download speed to accurately describe the value proposition.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:28:45 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

When does this first race end? End of 2010? June of 2011? We could set multiple betting lines and let the audience play along... award prizes for guessing who offers the most bandwidth per buck, who hits 100 M POPs first... of course verification will be the key. Without accurate coverage maps we may be left to trusting providers that they are "covering" the markets they say they are. Not sure that is a good measure -- we need something better than say, those red vs. blue TV "maps" commercials.


As far as there not being a "cap" on LTE services... tiered pricing, metered pricing, call it what you will. It will be interesting to see how Verizon's LTE pricing stacks up, bit-per-buck, with other offerings. Think we need a new metric other than download speed to accurately describe the value proposition.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:28:38 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

First leg ends at the end of this year.

jboy75 12/5/2012 | 4:28:20 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

"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."


Dan, good article but I disagree that Sprint and Clearwire have only one advantage.  Yes, the early advantage is numerous devices including smartphones supporting 4G services.  Verizon will shore that up sooner rather than later sure.  However, the long term advantage is spectral holdings and that's where Clearwire (and Sprint) really shine.  It's great that LTE makes all kinds of claims but at the end of the day, if you don't have spectrum to support the network traffic and LOTS of users, you really don't have much of anything to work with so you see tiered plans, data caps, a highly stressed network, etc coming into play.  The FCC controls any additional spectrum auctions and any such spectrum is going to be priced at a premium, the bands aren't going to be available at near the speed needed for users to embrace 4G and so you're left with carriers like Verizon and AT&T doing what they can with the holdings they have in this spectrum shortage.  Clearwire is not in the same position given that its holdings far exceed those of would-be competitors, can offer more services to more people, and at a cheaper cost.


http://www.thestreet.com/story/10813139/2/clearwires-sweet-package.html


Here's a comment posted by Paul Kapustka on the street.com and a link to the free Sidecut Report highlighting Clearwire's main competitive advantage.


"Clearwire's spectrum depth and its ability to move to LTE in the future are usually overlooked. For more details on why Clearwire's spectrum is such an advantage, download our free report on the subject: http://bit.ly/c0tF34"


To put the subjects of spectrum, caps, and tiered plans in more laymen's terms, I refer you to Anton Wahlman's quote from thestreet.com article.


"If one brand of gas station offered you unlimited gasoline for $30 per month, would you shop there? Hmm, let me think."


I know what I would choose.  I hope more people rather than less read the fineprint before they sign up for Verizon's service (or skip them all together and go with a carrier who can offer a much more robust service at a lower cost and that's Clearwire [and Sprint]).

4Geo 12/5/2012 | 4:28:17 PM
re: Verizon Breathing Down Sprint's 4G Neck

Some have stated that LTE is not a legitimate (aka true) 4G technology, but rather a 3.9G variation.   That would probably put HSPA+ at 3.75G.   It will come down to performance, from a perspective of backhaul.   Verizon's unique deal will be managing 2 disperate networks, and when do they sunset the CDMA technology for voice, once VOLTE is reliable and ubiquitous.   Dual chipsets, and radios would seem to be an engineering challenge, not only to battery life, but to physical design in the interim.   Especially for International travelers, who might expect some level of functionality outside of the Verizon "bubble".   As far as Sprint WiMAX, if WiMAX2 isn't happening before LTE/HSPA+ deploys widely, we may have another Beta/VHS scenario here.  Volume breads price advantages and commoditization will never be said of WiMax.   However, it seems it will have a happy life servicing the metro for fixed high-speed wireless, and in cell tower backhaul aggregation schemes.

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