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10/21/2010
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Clearwire Takes LTE Speeds Towards 100Mbps

With Phoenix 4G test network seeing download rates hit 90Mbps using 20MHz channels, company may favor Long Term Evolution over WiMax.

Clearwire Corp. is nearing download speeds of 100Mbps on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless network it is testing in Phoenix, a company executive said at the 4G World trade show in Chicago Wednesday.

Download speeds of 50 megabits per second have been clocked by the company using 10MHz channels for up and down speeds, said Michael Sievert, chief commercial officer at Clearwire, whose major investor is Sprint Nextel. The speeds increase to 90Mbps when 20MHz channels are used. The speeds are significant because Clearwire currently gets between 3Mbps and 6Mbps on its competing WiMax network. Clearwire used its owned testing equipment during the trial.

While Verizon Wireless is expected to launch its LTE network by the end of the year with download speeds of between 8Mbps and 12Mbps, Clearwire’s trial LTE network is faster. Yet, the test network doesn’t have other real-world users that could affect its performance. The Phoenix LTE network trial indicates Clearwire may be favoring a move toward LTE rather than WiMax. But Sievert told the audience that there are no definitive plans to deploy LTE. He said it is not important to customers what the underlying technology is, as long as they get the speeds they want, and that they are willing to pay more for additional speed. When it announced plans to conduct 4G LTE trials last August, Clearwire said that it was “technology agnostic.”

He said that the Phoenix trial showed true broadband wireless speeds and that high-quality, high-definition video would be among the new services that will be offered to wireless customers. Clearwire has repeatedly said it would consider other technologies to help it stay competitive in the wireless broadband market. Clearwire has as much as 150-megahertz spectrum in some markets and is reportedly trying to auction off some of the capacity to raise funds for its buildout plans for next year.

Clearwire is projecting it will cover about 120 million people across the U.S. by the end of the year.

Earlier this week, Sprint and Clearwire announced plans to launch their joint WiMax network in New York City on Nov. 1.

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