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10/1/2010
10:16 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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T-Mobile USA Favors LTE Over WiMax For 4G

A T-Mobile USA executive said that the company is going to sit on its HSPA+ 3.5G network until the LTE ecosystem matures before launching 4G services.

T-Mobile USA said way back in 2009 that it would look to Long Term Evolution for its (eventual) 4G network roll out. That has been called into question lately, with Clearwire's CEO implying that T-Mobile USA is prepared to invest in its WiMax business.

Clearwire will need another round of funding by the end of the year, and has had trouble scoring the cash it needs. In late September, Clearwire investor Comcast said that it won't contribute any more cash, and Sprint also recently said that it doesn't have the money to invest in Clearwire.

Were T-Mobile to invest in Clearwire, Clearwire would gain some much-need moula, and T-Mobile would gain an equity share in Clearwire along with access to the WiMax network. Well, a T-Mobile executive spoke up recently, setting the record straight(er).

Speaking to BusinessWeek, T-Mobile USA’s Chief Network Officer Neville Ray said, "We'll look towards LTE at the right point in time for us. That ecosystem is going to be much richer than the competing one from WiMax, which is really a niche play."

Yes, that would be T-Mobile harshing on WiMax. Given Ray's belief that WiMax is a "niche play," does it still sound likely that T-Mobile USA is going to invest in Clearwire? Not to me, it doesn't.

Instead, T-Mobile USA is going to stick to its originally stated 4G strategy with LTE. However, it isn't in a hurry to build-out LTE.

T-Mobile is in the middle of upgrading its entire 3G network to 3.5G HSPA+. HSPA+ delivers extremely fast speeds, which in my own tests easily surpass Sprint's and Clearwire's WiMax network in raw speed. In fact, T-Mobile is even marketing its HSPA+ network as providing "4G speeds."

With HSPA+ on tap, T-Mobile is going to bide its time before jumping to 4G. "We're not waiting for the technology choice, we have the right technology to deliver that experience today," he said.

Of course, T-Mobile doesn't have the spectrum right now to build out LTE anyway, so 3.5G will have to do until it can come up with a workable upgrade path.

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