5,000 Clear Sites Will Go To TD-LTE by June 2013

Posted by at 11:50 am on February 17, 2012

Clearwire chief Erik Prusch in comments during his company’s fiscal results call Thursday set a timeframe for its move to LTE for 4G. He expected an initial round of 5,000 sites to switch on by June 2013. The currently WiMAX-only provider is planning to use TD-LTE on top of WiMAX and will focus mostly on heavy population areas where data use is most likely.

Coverage would grow to 8,000 relatively soon afterwards. To help manage the transition, Clearwire was expecting large payments from Sprint for use of its WiMAX network, including $600 million this year and another $300 million in 2013. An extra $87 million from Sprint would help keep the company above water.

The addition of TD-LTE gives it the same network type as both the standard’s co-creator, China Mobile, as well as some Canadian carriers and likely Sprint itself. Many LTE devices are expected to support both TD-LTE and its regular variety. For Clearwire, also presents a path towards LTE-Advanced and real-world speeds that range into the dozens of megabits per second, if not over 100.

Overall, the switch is expected both to catch Clearwire’s network up to those of AT&T and Verizon as well as change its role. Using WiMAX has prevented it from being anything other than a data provider, but Voice over LTE (VoLTE) could see it become a full cellphone carrier with the choices of hardware like a future LTE iPhone and upcoming VoLTE-aware Android phones.

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