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Clearwire currently runs a WiMAX network across dozens of U.S. cities, offering "4G" connectivity through dongle modems, mobile hotspots and the EVO 4G handset. But while the company continues to expand its network footprint every month, and partners including Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and soon Best Buy sell 4G service under their own brand names, it seems everyone else is committing to the LTE technology that is fast becoming a global standard.
Looking to future-proof its business, Clearwire today announced plans to start trial testing a form of LTE that is faster than Verizon Wireless's upcoming 4G network and "examine a variety of potential future technology combinations." The announcement came as a bit of a surprise, but it actually is a smart move for the company. The plan with WiMAX – or at least how it's turning out – was to arrive early, garner wholesale customers and leverage its wireless spectrum to leapfrog rivals. The tests will be conducted through early 2011 in the Phoenix area. With this, Clearwire is positioning itself to be a major player in 4G technology with both WiMAX and LTE.
Clearwire will test both FDD (frequency-division duplex) and TDD (time-division duplex) LTE technologies, with the former providing a full 20MHz-wide channel whereas competitors will be limited to 10MHz. It is unclear how Clearwire's LTE trials will turn out, but the company says it aims for 'real world' downloads of 20 to 70 Mbps. By comparison, Verizon has said their upcoming network will reach 100 million people by year's end with initial speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps down.