Home > 3GPP, FCC, LTE, WiMAX > Clearwire Announces New 4G LTE Technology Trials

Clearwire Announces New 4G LTE Technology Trials

Clearwire a leading provider of wireless broadband services and operator of the largest 4G network in the country, today announced plans to conduct 4G LTE technology trials expected to yield unmatched wireless speeds in the U.S., and to test multiple coexistence scenarios between LTE and WiMAX radio technologies. The new tests are designed to showcase the unique capability of Clearwire’s unmatched spectrum holdings and examine a variety of potential future technology combinations that could yield additional benefits to consumers and shareholders.

“Clearwire’s unmatched spectrum and all-IP network make us the only service provider in the U.S. able to conduct tests of this nature and on this scale,” said Dr. John Saw, Clearwire’s chief technology officer. “As we have consistently stated, we remain technology agnostic, but WiMAX provides us with unique advantages to meet the needs of our customers today. Ultimately, consumers don’t care about technical acronyms, but they do care about quality and affordable Internet services that work where and when they want, and that’s what we’re focused on delivering. Part of our technical due diligence at Clearwire is to be prepared to leverage a number of possible opportunities as we future-proof our network, and that’s the goal of these tests.”

The company expects the technical trials to demonstrate that Clearwire’s 4G network can deliver significantly higher performance using LTE technologies than any other operator. Clearwire plans to conduct the tests in collaboration with Huawei Technologies, the same infrastructure provider which deployed the world’s first commercial LTE network in Europe, using the same spectrum band and flexible base station platform that Clearwire utilizes in the United States. In the same vein, Clearwire will also be testing LTE on Samsung Electronics’ common base station platform which it currently uses for its mobile WiMAX deployments. During the trials, Clearwire will collaborate with Beceem, and other partners, to determine the best methods for enabling end-user devices to take advantage of a potential multi-mode WiMAX/LTE network. Other participating vendors for Clearwire’s technical trials are expected to be named at a later date. In addition, due to the global dominance of the 2.5 GHz – 2.6 GHz spectrum band, a number of large wireless operators are expected to participate with Clearwire on these tests. Additional details about those companies are also expected to be disclosed at a later date. The tests will be conducted in the fall and throughout early 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Dr. Saw continued, “The 2.5 GHz spectrum band is universally allocated for global 4G deployments, so it has the potential to create one of the world’s most robust ecosystem across billions of devices. We believe this commonality will result in a massive diversity of mobile devices and applications, at comparably low costs, due to unmatched economies-of-scale. In a 4G world, wireless coverage is important, but capacity is king. This capacity is a unique and sustainable advantage for Clearwire, thanks to our all-IP network and unmatched spectrum holdings.”

Test Scenarios

Clearwire expects to conduct tests across three key areas:

  • FDD LTE: Clearwire intends to conduct FDD LTE (Frequency Division Duplex) tests using 40 MHz of spectrum, paired in 20 MHz contiguous channels, of its 2.5 GHz spectrum. Clearwire expects to confirm the capability to produce real-world download speeds that range from 20-70 Mbps. This is expected to be significantly faster than the 5-12 Mbps speeds currently envisioned by other LTE deployments in the U.S., which will rely on smaller pairs of 10 Mhz channels or less.
  • TDD LTE: Clearwire will concurrently test TDD LTE (Time Division Duplex), in a 20 MHz configuration, which is twice the channel size currently used in its 4G WiMAX deployments.
  • WiMAX and LTE: Clearwire will also test WiMAX co-existence with both FDD LTE and TDD LTE to confirm the flexibility of its network and spectrum strength to simultaneously support a wide-range of devices across its all-IP network.

The company also restated its commitment to use WiMAX technology for its current 4G build plan. Since the company expects that a significant number of LTE devices will be available in coming years, Clearwire is conducting technical trials to determine how it could potentially add LTE technology to coexist with WiMAX.

Here is a Q&A for Clearwire’s commitment to WiMAX and the future into LTE –

Question: Is Clearwire committed to WiMAX?

Answer: Yes, Clearwire is committed to WiMAX.  WiMAX provides us with the ability to offer consumers the most robust devices choices today, and we remain committed to using WiMAX for our current build plans. Its all-IP architecture and the fact that WiMAX is built on open standards provide operational advantages over competing technologies and drives chip set competition, which has dropped the cost of 4G modules well below the cost of current chipsets on other networks (e.g., CDMA) today.

As we have consistently stated, we remain technology agnostic. Clearwire continuously evaluates all technologies as we strive to deliver the best network experience to our customers.

Question: I understand the need to evaluate different technologies, but does this trial mean that you’re planning to move to LTE and drop WiMAX?

Answer: No. These are technical trials. We remain committed to WiMAX for our current build plans. WiMAX provides us with the ability to offer consumers the most robust devices choices today.  At the same time, we recognize that a significant number of new 4G devices will be introduced using LTE technology, so our trials will help us “future proof” our network.  If we elect to add LTE to our network at some point, we could do so while reusing our existing core infrastructure, backhaul, and spectrum.

Question: How exactly would LTE coexist with your WiMAX network?  Would you operate both technologies in a market, or would WiMAX eventually be converted to LTE?

Answer: Our spectrum gives us incredible flexibility including the ability to operate simultaneously or independently.  Again, this recent announcement is really about our plans to conduct technical tests to determine the viability of a number of scenarios.  It would premature to speculate about possible deployment scenarios.   

Question: I currently have a CLEAR Spot device as well as CLEAR home service. Will I need to upgrade my devices or change my current services?

Answer: No. Nothing about the announcement of LTE trials changes the way your CLEAR service works.  This is really about future network possibilities and our plans to conduct technical tests that will start in the fall and continue into next year. We are committed to WiMAX for our current build plan, and our current roadmap of devices.

Question: Does this mean I should hold off buying a 4G phone from you or one of your resellers? Shouldn’t I just wait for Verizon which will likely have LTE phones first?

Answer: No. We believe that consumers looking for the fastest and highest capacity network will be best served by us now, and in the future. Today, WiMAX provides us with the ability to offer consumers the most robust devices choices (dozens) today on the largest 4G network in the United States.

Question: Clearwire competitors say that they are the only one with contiguous 4G spectrum?

Answer: This is untrue. Clearwire holds contiguous 2.5 GHz spectrum across the United States. Clearwire has 120 MHz of spectrum on average across the major markets where it has launched, or will soon, be launching service. In comparison, competitors, have closer to 12-46 MHz worth of spectrum where they will be launching LTE. 

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