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Summary:

Clearwire is starting its LTE build in the next two weeks and will ramp up its network in the fourth quarter. Once complete next year, Clearwire will sell capacity to other 4G carriers in city-centered hot zones. First, however, Clearwire needs to get compatible devices.

It’s been promising an LTE network for more than a year, but in the next three months Clearwire will actually deliver. Cleawire CFO Hope Cochran said Wednesday that Clearwire will begin constructing its LTE network rollout in the next two weeks and begin ramping up its build-out in the fourth quarter, FierceWireless reported.

There’s still no word on when Clearwire will make the new network commercially available to Sprint and other wholesale customers like Leap Wireless (Clearwire won’t sell LTE services directly to consumers), but Clearwire is on track to complete its first stage by June of 2013 with 5,000 cell sites, Fierce said. That’s not a huge number, but Clearwire isn’t planning to build a ubiquitous network. Instead, it’s placing LTE cells in high-traffic urban areas, and selling that capacity to other carriers to augment their current LTE services.

The big issue for Clearwire will be devices. While Sprint has agreed to use Clearwire to give its own LTE network extra bandwidth oomph, it doesn’t yet have devices that support either Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz band or its special flavor of LTE. Clearwire has promised that dual-mode smartphones and modems supporting both the frequency-division LTE used by the rest of the country’s carriers and its own time-division LTE will be plentiful, but they’ve yet to emerge in the U.S. For instance, the recently launched Galaxy S III and the new iPhone 5 will be able to access Sprint’s LTE networks but not Clearwire’s.

Rival carriers are continuing to build out their LTE networks. This week, AT&T expanded its own LTE network to Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Memphis, Tenn.; three of the last remaining big cities missing from its metro market 4G footprint. AT&T still doesn’t have the breadth and depth of Verizon’s network, which now covers 235 million people in close to 400 markets and is expanding into rural regions, but it’s now has a footprint of 72 big cities. Meanwhile, Sprint has some catching up to do. It’s deployed its network in six regional clusters

LTE image courtesy of Shutterstock user Inq

  1. I remember reading several articles regarding the possibility Sprint and Clearwire could combine their resources and have the best network around, blowing the doors off the competition. One ariticle was “Will Sprint Build a Monster or a Mouse, which didnt say it was going to happen but that it was a possibility, another was from Clearwire “Our Advanced LTE Network will be able to hit Speeds of 168MBPS, there were others that made it seem like this would only be a matter of time. I don’t see many articles any longer about the subject nor has either of the two carriers been “talking smack” like I have seen in the past. Does this business plan exist anymore or is it just wishful thinking on someones part. I wonder if anyone has any new information or if anyone can direct me to a detailed plan that shows the steps that both carriers have put together as their “game plan” to make this a reality. Thank you.

  2. Clear has been doing a fire sale of late with their WiMax hotspots, so it seems they ARE getting ready for something – I’m pretty certain they’ve got new LTE-compatible hardware already being manufactured somewhere in China. The question still remains though – will existing Clear customers get an equipment upgrade. Once Clear’s LTE service goes live, the company will have little incentive to keep a more expensive and obsolete WiMax network operational for very long.

  3. yea i wonder,i would really like to have that lte on my clear modem. as i was sold one and come to find out its outside my area about 6 miles but it works fairly good saying so. the speeds vary ,but would love too see lte. im already getting 3-7…sometimes 10mpbs. here richmond va

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