LTE vs. WiMAX: What Will the Consumer Do?

LTE vs WiMAX? Will consumers care about these TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) as they decide on a next generation wireless access plan.  If today is any indication, the battle among next generation wireless networks for consumer mind share is heating up and we may find out the answer to this question in 2011.    

The new Verizon video (below) is interesting as it talks about the attributes of their "4G" network (granted, it isn't 4G by standards definition, as pointed out by Alan Weissberger in previous articles), including:

  • Low latency (30 ms)
  • 700 MHz transmission, allowing greater reach and deeper penetration into buildings than higher frequencies

The video is enlightening in that it brings to life the various applications that 4G proponents have been touting for so long.  The representative from Nvidia points out that low latency will mean a better gaming experience.   

Another message from the video is that the Verizon network will serve as a viable competitor to land line networks in those areas where Verizon doesn't have a physical infrastructure.  In one sense, Verizon's primary target is probably the cable and incumbent LECs, as opposed to Clearwire and its WiMAX-based network.  

With its cable partnerships, Clearwire is still part of that target. In a comparison matrix (see below) that Clearwire’s press representative sent today, they spell out the distinctions between their service and Verizon’s offering.  One of the benefits they tout is the multiple brands that are marketing their service, including Sprint, Time-Warner and Comcast

As Alan Weissberger pointed out in a conversation earlier today, bit rates and latency between LTE and WiMAX are going to be secondary to consumers in their purchasing decision, as both networks offer a huge improvement over existing wireless alternatives.  Parameters, such as coverage area, the availability of devices, the viability of the provider and pricing, may be more important in a consumer’s purchasing decision.  Weissberger points out that Clearwire has a bit of a head start in terms of device availability (as evidenced by a WiMAX-enabled laptop advertised in today’s San Jose Mercury).  In other words, overall value will be an important factor in the consumer’s decision.

Of course, don't count out T-Mobile, with its HPSA+ network, MetroPCS with its LTE buildout, AT&T, etc, as it is early in the race for broad adoption of these next generation wireless networks.  The real determinant of which wireless entities dominate may be a factor of who has a better marketing approach and ecosystem program.  Given how the folks on Infinite Loop seem to turn everything to consumer-gold and create a halo-effect for the service provider, the next generation broadband wireless winner may be that network that is first to integrate with products from Apple.   

Video Explaining Verizon's LTE Network (courtesy of Verizon)

Clearwire vs. Verizon (matrix courtesy of Clearwire) – Click here to open in a new window


0 thoughts on “LTE vs. WiMAX: What Will the Consumer Do?

  1. Three Aspects of "viability of the '4G' service provider" – in particular Clearwire
    1.  Tech support and network maintenance
    2.   Network expansion beyond your coverage area, e.g. CLEAR 4G goes live in SF on Dec 28, but what about Santa Clara or Marin counties?  No date has been set for those cities to have WiMAX.
    3.   Will you become an "orphan" if you buy WiMAX from Clearwire, that company goes broke and no one picks up the pieces?  In that case, there'd be WiMAX islands of coverage,but the service would be useless for the subscriber moving from one location to another.  And if WiMAX loses out to LTE/ TD-LTE then your WiMAX gadget or tablet won't have any 4G apps running on it.

    1. Thanks Alan for amplifying your comment about the viability of the service provider.  Also, thank you for clarifying the point about the coverage.  One thing that was interesting is that I spoke to a Bay Area Comcast installation technician today and he told me of the new services Comcast are planning, including home security, home theater installation and a "Geek Squad"-like service. 
      When I asked him about their upcoming WiMAX rollout, he had no idea.  And it wasn't like the guy wasn't knowlegable about wireless, as he was touting the benefits of the latest Samsung tablet.  If this one datapoint is representative, it either means we won't be seeing a rollout in Santa Clara anytime soon or marketing it will be a low priority for Comcast.     

  2. "the Verizon network will serve as a viable competitor to land line networks in those areas where Verizon doesn't have a physical infrastructure"
    That is…until you reach your bandwidth limit for the month.   Land line networks (Cable, DSL, Fiber Optic, etc) don't have usage restrictions.   The wireless solution will only suit users who consume lesser amounts of data, which negates the benefit of higher transfer speeds.  At 12 Megabit, you can consume your monthly maximum in less than a day.    People who use more bandwidth than alotted will either be cut off when they reach their monthly limit, or will suffer excessive charges for their overages.
    They want to tout the high speed, yet they don't  to invest in the infrastructure necessary to supply the performance they promise when people flock to the service.   Just like lackluster performance that AT&T users have experienced after the iPhone were added to their network.  Rather than delivering the speeds they advertise, they hide behind the words "up to X M-bit" to explain pathetic transfer speeds that make dial up seem fast. 
    I would rather see the technology throttled, to give users service at the speed advertised, rather than telling me the theoretical maximum of the technology that will never be achieved in real life.

    1. Hi Eman,
      Thanks for the comment.  One of the advantages that Clearwire touts is their unlimited data plans.  It is an interesting note on their matrix, suggesting the average Clearwire customer uses 7 Gbytes per month, which would mean the next higher priced tier in the Verizon pricing structure.

  3. Good news for US WiMAX:  Clearwire plans to raise $1.1 billion in debt to get its network build out plans back on track.  Probably won't be enough to complete 2011 WiMAX rollouts planned, but at least the company won't have to sell spectrum to raise cash- at least for now.

    Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless will accomplish in one weekend what it took Clearwire two years to complete: the launch of a 110 million-pop 4G footprint. Verizon’s LTE network is scheduled to go live this Sunday in almost all of the major cities Clearwire currently offers service, not to mention several others where Clearwire has no presence. Verizon has said it plans to aggressively expand that network throughout 2011, and launch its first smartphones before mid-year, putting pressure not only on Clearwire but its main reseller and investor Sprint, which is using WiMax to support its own high-speed smartphone service.

    1. Even more good news for Clearwire, if the report from Bloomberg is accurate that Sprint has given its blessing for T-Mobile to invest in Clearwire.  Still may be a long road, but it could make for some real interesting partnerships. Would be interesting to see the impact this might have on groups like iWireless in Iowa that is a T-Mobile parter in rural areas. Could this eventually mean more WiMAX for rural areas?

  4. CLEARWIRE internet service works great, it's low priced ($45 unlimited 4g), it's fast (4 to 5mbps download) upload 1mbps). They got a lot of devices. VERIZON prices are always higher than the rest. I'd like to see a real life download and upload speed of their LTE. I don't think the announced speed is real. Well, let's just wait for the new arrival of another "4g" carrier to the market, and let's see what happens.

  5. The FCC is giving LTE a big stamp of approval with their order regarding mobile broadband interoperability among public safety agencies:


    "Under the baseline technical framework, waiver recipients will:

    – Construct networks that support Long Term Evolution (LTE) interfaces that support roaming and interoperability;

    – Construct networks that provide outdoor coverage at minimum data rates of 256 Kbps uplink and 768 Kbps downlink for all types of devices throughout the cell coverage area;

    – Provide 95 percent reliability of signal coverage for all services and applications throughout the network; 

    – Conduct conformance testing on devices to ensure compliance with technical requirements associated with 3GPP Release 8 (LTE) and higher release standards;

    – Perform interoperability testing of the LTE interfaces to determine their roaming capabilities and make sure that these capabilities are sufficient;· Build security and encryption features into their networks based on certain optional features of  the 3GPP security features for LTE Network Access Domain; 

    – Allow to use permanent fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint stations only on an ancillary basis and on a non-interference basis to the primary mobile operations; and

    – Coordinate with one another when their networks overlap or operate adjacent to one another to avoid signal/spectral interference or disruption to communications."

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