Verizon Wireless Announces 2010 LTE Deployment Plans, Mobile WiMAX Seen Crying in Corner

verizon-wireless-logo_0012I already knew this was going to be a make-or-break-year for Mobile WiMax. And now the clock is literally ticking. Verizon Wireless just announced that it has chosen Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as its launch partners for the carrier’s upcoming LTE deployment, slated for 2010. In trials Verizon has seen peak speeds of 50 to 60 Mbps. Assuming the real-world throughput is a tenth of that (Verizon hasn’t confirmed true data rates) LTE will be about twice as fast as Clearwire’s two-cities-and-perpetually-counting network. And I don’t see the Mobile WiMAX footprint in the U.S. moving much beyond Baltimore and Portland anytime soon, not when the company recently said that it has a $2 billion funding gap. Obama to the rescue! Seriously, it’s not a good sign when head of sales at Intel Executive VP Sean Maloney says that “The current build-out rate for Clearwire is pretty fast. We can come back to whether it needs to be faster or not at some point in the next year or so.” Um, in a year or so, LTE will be rolling out, and Clearwire will have lost its all-important first mover advantage. I was personally impressed with Mobile WiMAX when I saw it in action this past fall in Baltimore, but unless Clearwire kicks it into high gear by this spring/summer the technology will fade into obscurity faster than you can say 4G. Update: Clearwire has issued a press release that defends WiMAX, stating that today “Clearwire customers experience better speeds and bandwidth than what is being described as next year’s LTE networks.” I’m not sure what that means, given that Verizon hasn’t made any real-world speed claims. More important, a Clearwire rep contacted me saying that we will learn more about further U.S. deployment details when the company releases its financial results March 5.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Derek Says:

    I wonder where Verizon’s planning on getting the funding for this expansion… per their 12/31/08 financial statements, they have 10B in cash but 25B in short-term debt (to be paid out in the next FY). Their cash flow isn’t much better. They obtained 19B in long-term debt in 2008 and are still underwater on their current asset/liability ratio. This isn’t a pretty picture for the company, folks.

    Cash is king my friend, and it looks like they’re either going to have to obtain long-term funding (in one of the worst credit markets we’ve ever seen globally, and right after they obtained a significant amount of debt last year), or delay their expansion. I call boo on this announcement. They’re bluffing.

  2. Bill Kircos Says:

    I think Derek has a good point. In addition to the financing (for LTE or WiMAX for that matter), what is the ROI on the huge investment in 3G from these companies if LTE comes so quickly? Tons of money spent and to be spent on 3G. I work for Intel — while competitive battles make great headlines, reality is likley different. Spectrum is king, and just like cable and DSL (and wifi and satellite), there will likely be a choice out there, but only IF LTE and others can finish a spec, do all the testing and certification, and get things working for mass populations in the next couple of years. That’s a tall order. But any company trying to speed wireless broadband is a great thing for the tech and telecom industries at large.

  3. Nigel Says:

    If all Verizon can do is spin their LTE deployment then so be it. We already have Wamax 2nd generation being prepped for deployment around the same time as LTE, which has proven to be much faster than LTE. At this stage Wimax has a proven eco system and plenty of spectrum, which mind you is key to its success. Any questions as to Sprint/Clearwire’s ability to fund their 2010 deployments should also be put to rest since they were able to raise an additional $2.8 billion, which is much more than they need to complete their schedule for 2010. This will leave them with 120 million POPS of Wimax in the continental USA.

    So now that the question of funding has been put to rest and the 2nd generation Wimax has manifested its superiority over LTE, what will Verizon’s next cascade of Spin entail?

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