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Why Not WiMax And LTE On The Same Phone?

The only winner in the standards battle between Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax should be the consumer.
The only winner in the standards battle between Long Term Evolution (LTE) and WiMax should be the consumer.Sprint and Clearwire have done a great job of promoting WiMax, which has a big head start in terms of deployments and has produced a road map for deployments in 2009.

In contrast, the first U.S. deployments of LTE aren't scheduled until 2010 at the earliest.

But LTE nevertheless has the more serious momentum in the race for fourth-generation wireless networks among both carriers and handset makers.

Nokia certainly got the market's attention when it qualified WiMax as a mere niche technology, while Verizon's decision to go with LTE was particularly telling since that route represents a much more expensive, rip-and-replace approach than WiMax would have been.

But WiMax certainly will have its place, particularly in metropolitan areas, and this made me wonder why handsets couldn't accommodate both.

For decades, users have had to deal with diverging standards in electricity (power converters adding many pounds to luggage bound from Kennedy to Charles de Gaulle), second-generation cell phones (GSM versus CDMA) and television, (PAL, SECAM, NTSC).

Those should be yesterday's problems.

I asked Mike Jude, senior analyst with Current Analysis, why cell phones couldn't conceivably accommodate both WiMax and LTE, and he confirmed there's no reason that shouldn't happen.

"Multistandard componentry is becoming more and more common," he agreed. "A chipset should be able to discriminate between different carrier standards."

But Jude also noted that, while the verdict is still out in the LTE-WiMax battle, "the carriers generally have looked at the landscape and concluded the momentum is with LTE."

At the very least, he said, for WiMax to be successful, "it will need a hand-off capability to other 3G/4G networks."

As for Ultra Mobile Broadband, "it's not even going to be a player" since Qualcomm, its lead sponsor, abandoned it in favor of LTE, he said.

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