Clearwire: Switch To LTE No Problem

Clearwire and WiMax are facing stiff competition from companies rolling out 4G networks based on Long-Term Evolution technology.

Marin Perez, Contributor

September 17, 2009

2 Min Read

Clearwire's CEO Bill Morrow said the looming 4G standards battle is not a big issue because the company has flexible equipment that can shift from WiMax to Long-Term Evolution technology relatively easily.

The company, in which Sprint Nextel is a 51% shareholder, is in the process of deploying multiple 4G networks based on WiMax technology. Clearwire is already delivering up to 8 Mbps on the go to customers in various markets, and it plans to cover 120 million people by the end of 2010.

Clearwire and WiMax are facing stiff competition from companies rolling out 4G networks based on LTE technology, which offers a faster theoretical download limit. Verizon Wireless is being the most aggressive with LTE deployment, but even smaller players like MetroPCS plan to have handsets and networks by next year that can utilize the 4G technology.

The majority of wireless operators around the world have chosen LTE for their 4G upgrade paths, which could be a reason Clearwire's stock has been battered lately. WiMax still has a time-to-market advantage over LTE, but Morrow said the company is well-prepared to shift strategies if it needs to. Many of Clearwire's routers are compatible with WiMax and LTE, and a shift would essentially only require a software update, Morrow said.

"We're the only carrier that can do this," Morrow told the Dow Jones Newswire. "We'll do what's right for the business. Whether it's LTE, WiMax, future technology X, it doesn't matter to me."

The company is also seeking further investment to build out its infrastructure, even though it already has $2.4 billion in cash. Industry heavyweights like Comcast, Intel, and Google previously invested in the company, but many have already taken write-offs, so it is unclear if they would invest more funds.

LTE vs. WiMax won't be the typical winner-take-all showdown. Learn what each brings to the race (registration required).

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