A year ago, I demanded 4G wireless from the powers that be. Just last month, the FCC set about fast-tracking carrier rollouts. This week, 4G operator Clearwire came closer to making my dream come true, pushing even further ahead of lumbering giants like Verizon and AT&T — but only for now.
Clearwire, 51% of which is owned by Sprint, announced Wednesday it has pulled down an additional $1.49 billion in funding from partner companies, bringing its total funding to around $1.8 billion, or about a third of the remaining cash it will need to wire up its entire WiMAX national network.
With WiMAX already up and running in 18 regions across the country, you’d think other telecoms would be concerned. But they’re not — at least according to Motorola, which plans to make both WiMAX and LTE handsets. Motorola doesn’t deny that WiMAX will stay far ahead of LTE; in fact, the company’s senior VP for wireless believes the WiMAX head-start will be counted in years, not months, according to InformationWeek. But few 4G phones will be available for consumers to buy in the meantime, so 4G speeds will be relegated to USB dongles for laptops and a few select smartphones while handset manufacturers catch up.
Once LTE picks up pace, it will offer “substantially more robust” networks, says InformationWeek, and the qualitative difference will likely cause Clearwire’s lead to erode. The pace will pick up fast: Verizon’s infrastructure partners are planning to have a LTE-based networks up and running in at least 25 regions next year.