4G: The Battle
The two major groups involved with
updating this country's cell-phone services to the next level are
stepping up their efforts to build out their networks and make sure
they work correctly as soon as they're up and running.
One group that favors the LTE standard is busy making sure that
voice calls will be handled as well as data over their
next-generation network. There are reports that a new working group,
the VoLGA (Voice over LTE via Generic Access) will be ironing out
any problems with the delivery of voice calls over LTE networks.
LTE (long-term evolution) currently has the backing of industry
giants Verizon (VZ Quote - Cramer on VZ - Stock Picks),
Alcatel-Lucent (ALA Quote - Cramer on ALA - Stock Picks), Ericsson
(ERIC Quote - Cramer on ERIC - Stock Picks), Huawei, LG, Motorola
(MOTO Quote - Cramer on MOTO - Stock Picks), Nortel (NT Quote -
Cramer on NT - Stock Picks), Samsung and ZTE. Verizon says they will
be rolling out their LTE network this year. And TSC's Scott Moritz
is reporting that Nokia (NOK Quote - Cramer on NOK - Stock Picks) is
quietly working with Verizon at creating a LTE/4G phone for the new
That's interesting, because Nokia is also one of the companies that
have been big supporters of LTE's challenger, WiMax. As a matter of
fact, Nokia has already released (and subsequently "retired") a
WiMax-capable version of its slick mini-tablet device.
A Nokia spokesperson made sure that I understood that the company is
very interested in both technologies:
"Our position on WiMax and LTE has not changed. We stated in January
2009 at CES that Nokia will continue to follow the WiMax network
developments and confirmed the business-as-usual decision to
end-of-life the WiMax edition tablet, and clearly stated that does
not apply to other WiMax business development efforts that Nokia is
"Further, it is well documented and publicly known that Verizon
intends to deploy a LTE network throughout the USA during next five
years and that Nokia has certainly endorsed their decision. While we
have not entered into any exclusive agreement for 4G touch screen
device development as is being reported, we will continue to follow
and pursue developments as a normal course of business. Beyond that,
we have nothing new to add or update on.
"With regard to product timing, we are committed and focused on
standardization and technology development to enable the start of
commercial LTE deployment in 2010. We have not made any specific
commitments or announcements for exact timing for commercial LTE
device availability -- as we've stated before, this will occur
around the time of commercial LTE network deployments."
Unlike LTE, WiMax is up and running in at least two U.S. cities:
Baltimore and Portland, Ore. We were in Baltimore for Sprint's (S
Quote - Cramer on S - Stock Picks) big rollout of WiMax last fall
and went back a few weeks later to test Sprint's first 4G/USB modem.
We were very impressed with the speeds we obtained.
Sprint is now has a partner in these WiMax networks, and Clearwire (CLWR
Quote - Cramer on CLWR - Stock Picks) has just revealed that it
plans to spend $1.9 billion this year to build out its "Clear"
branded 4G solution nationwide.
During Thursday's earnings call, Clearwire CEO Benjamin Worth
announced that his company was on track to roll out Clear in Las
Vegas, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth,
Seattle, Honolulu and Charlotte, N.C. He added that New York,
Boston, Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco will be
activated in 2010. By that time, the company claims it could
potentially provide coverage to up to 120 million users.
There was one proviso, though. The company also stated that it is
keeping a close eye on the economy and may still speed-up or slow
down itsr 4G build-out.
WiMax backers include Comcast (CMCSA Quote - Cramer on CMCSA - Stock
Picks), Intel (INTC Quote - Cramer on INTC - Stock Picks), Time
Warner (TWX Quote - Cramer on TWX - Stock Picks), Google (GOOG Quote
- Cramer on GOOG - Stock Picks) and Bright House Networks.
Gary Krakow, 06.03.09