CTIA 2010: Hesse – LTE Will Be Bigger But We Are First

LAS VEGAS -- International CTIA WIRELESS 2010 -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Dan Hesse says that Long Term Evolution (LTE) will likely be larger than mobile WiMax as a “4G standard,” but that being first to market was more important to the third-largest carrier in the US.

”I’ll be frank, LTE will most likely be the larger of the 4G standards, but for us, we couldn’t wait,” Hesse said during his keynote appearance here in Vegas. “Time to market was more important to us.”

Hesse explicitly laid out the carrier’s reasons for choosing and sticking with mobile WiMax, despite the fact that all the other major US carriers have chosen LTE instead. In a nutshell, Sprint and its network partner, Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), had the spectrum available before larger rivals and can still switch to LTE or another technology at a later date.

Hesse said that many still don't understand exactly why moving to "4G" quickly is important to carriers as subscribers change how they use their mobile devices. Hesse highlighted his company's newest device -- the High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) EVO 4G -- and noted that video performance is much improved on mobile WiMax compared to existing 3G networks. (See CTIA 2010: Sprint Goes Supersonic and Details on Sprint's EVO.)

"The user experience is most affected on video," Hesse said.

Of course, heavy video usage can chew through gigabytes of data on a mobile network, and Hesse says that this is the other important aspect of Sprint's rush to mobile WiMax. "With 4G, we can offer customers more because we can produce a gigabit cheaper."

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow took the stage after this to try and hammer home Hesse's point. He claimed Clearwire, in building its greenfield network, can support the "lowest cost per gigabyte" using the current cost structure.

Mobile Clearwire subscribers -- rather than those tethered to larger modems at home -- use, on average, seven gigabytes of data a month, compared to a gigabyte or so on other major networks, Morrow claimed.

"We think we can double that kind of usage and still make a profit," he said.

Morrow once again tried to play down the technology tussles between WiMax and LTE. He noted that chipmaker Beceem Communications Inc. is launching silicon that supports both WiMax and TD-LTE, and that technology should start to be available in devices sometime next year. [Ed. note: TD-LTE is not used in US LTE deployments.]

"Hopefully, at some point in the future, we're all going to be using the same technology," Morrow concluded.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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