Clearwire is currently in the middle of building out their 4G WiMAX network to 120 million people this year, but the company remains technology agnostic and could switch to the more popular 4G standard LTE (Long Term Evolution). Starting this fall, Clearwire will begin testing several LTE scenarios in Phoenix, Arizona to demonstrate the company’s unmatched spectrum holdings.
Initial LTE tests are expected to demonstrate real-world download speeds ranging from 20-70 Mbps. Clearwire points out this is significantly faster than the 5-12 Mbps expected from “other operators in the U.S.”, which is a clear jab at Verizon who is already testing their 4G LTE network.
The super fast download speeds are a result of Clearwire’s vast spectrum holdings, which allow them to tap a lot of new capabilities that no other carrier in the country can do. Clearwire intends to conduct FDD LTE (Frequency Division Duplex) tests using 40 MHz of spectrum (paired in 20 MHz contiguous channels) of its 2.5 GHz spectrum. Other carriers deploying LTE are limited to smaller pairs of 10 Mhz channels or less, so Clearwire is the only one in the U.S. that can do this 20 megahertz arrangement.
To put it simply – Clearwire has the biggest pipe so they can deliver the most throughput (fastest download speeds).
Clearwire also revealed that a number of large wireless operators are expected to participate with them on these LTE tests. The speculation that Sprint and T-Mobile will eventually merge has been growing and if both carriers end up using LTE for their 4G networks then it could make more sense. T-Mobile has confirmed they had talks with Clearwire for possible network collaboration, so they could be one of the unnamed operators that will participate in these tests.
Even though Clearwire could eventually transition to LTE in the future, WiMAX is not being phased out anytime soon. Best Buy recently formed a relationship with Clearwire and expects to become their first major wholesaler of 4G data. Clear still expects to launch two 4G handsets this year and should release more details in the coming weeks.