The maturing of 4G--has been even more interesting than usual during the past couple of weeks.
Clearwire, the sponsor of the Clear service, is the most significant backer of WiMax. However, the company has long been hedging its bet on which is the best approach. Last week, Clear said that it will test two types of LTE in Phoenix this autumn and could move forward with the technology by year's end. According to Betanews, the company claims be able to bond two 20 MHz channels to offer speeds of 20 to 70 Megabits per second (Mbps), while other LTE approaches are stuck at 5 to 12 Mbps. Clearwire could have a working LTE network in place by 2012, according to analysts cited in the story.
Not all the news was bad for WiMax. This week, the WiMax Forum said the next version of WiMax may be ready by the beginning of 2012. Computerworld said that WiMax 2-802.11m-is set for finalization by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in November. Device certification could occur next year. The story says WiMax 2 will offer speeds as high as 100 Mbps, which is much faster than the currently used 802.16e WiMax standard. The footprint of an access point, the area it can cover, will remain at about 31 square miles, the story says.
Of perhaps a bit less importance-but significant nonetheless-is the announcement by Sprint Nextel of pricing and a release date for the Samsung Epic, a 3G/4G phone. This is Samsung's first WiMax phone and Sprint's second after the HTC Evo. The Epic, which is part of Samsung's Galaxy S line, will launch Aug. 31 and cost $249.99 after a $100 rebate.
Also from Sprint is the news that it is purchasing 10 MHz of spectrum from Wirefree Partners in the 1900 MHz band in 16 markets, including Austin, Cincinnati, Seattle and Virginia Beach. Telegeography says that Wirefree Partners, which is a cousin of Sprint, acquired the spectrum at auction in 2005. The piece does not say if the spectrum will be used for WiMax, though it certainly seems possible that it will be.
There clearly has been a run of significant announcements and news from the 4G sector during the past few weeks. The bottom line is that all of the items-new specs, more spectrum, a new handset and Clear's willingness to support LTE -- point to growth in both flavors of 4G.