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Clearwire puzzles over LTE migration

Take two wireless standards to the airwaves?

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Clearwire will start working out how to migrate to LTE, the world’s 4G standard, and whether it will cause problems with the firm's existing WiMAX network.

Clearwire runs a WiMAX network across dozens of US cities, offering “4G” connectivity through dongle modems, an innovative iPad case and one handset. But the company has already said it’s not tied to WiMAX and would migrate to the industry-standard LTE at some point - a process that we now know will start testing this year in Phoenix, Arizona.

The company is not, however, admitting it backed the wrong horse. It says that WiMAX provided it with the technology to offer mobile broadband now, while the migration to LTE is being presented as an upgrade. Clearwire certainly intends to squeeze the LTE standard, and reckons it will be testing connections running up to 70Mb/sec.

That’s using the FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) variant of LTE, with a full 20MHz-wide channel to play with. Clearwire will also be testing the newfangled Time Division Duplex (TDD-LTE), which used the same frequency in both directions, and can thus be more asynchronous and better suited for data, as well as slotting between existing users.

But the important thing is to see how LTE can coexist with WiMAX, ideally from the same base station. Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX base stations, supplied by Samsung, are capable of doing LTE - but that’s an untested capability, which is rather the point of this news.

Huawei Technologies will be helping with the LTE side of things, and quite a few companies are also involved in various capacities, but many more will be watching to see if a smooth transition from WiMAX to LTE can be accomplished, and if not, why not. ®

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