March 17, 2011

The Future of 4G

Talk of 4G now inundates the airwaves; one can hardly watch TV or listen to the radio without hearing commercials for the latest 4G phone or the widest 4G network. Like any new technology, there are plenty of arguments about standards:
Does HSPA count as 4G? What about HSPA+? Which is better, CDMA/WCDMA or GSM? LTE or WiMax?
It's much the same as you might see in other technologies as they emerge.
DVD or Blu-Ray? LCD or Plasma? USB or FireWire?
It's looking, however, like this particular standards battle, namely that of Long Term Evolution (LTE) or WiMax might be coming to a head.
Normally I try to avoid discussing pure speculation, fueling the rumor mill, but this seems to be unavoidable, and therefore worth discussing.

Until now, AT&T and Verizon had their bets placed firmly on the LTE standard, and T-Mobile also has been moving toward LTE, although with a slower start than AT&T and Verizon (and it now seems as if they may struggle to compete in that space. Only Sprint has wagered on WiMax, and it is now looking like they might reverse course. Sprint's WiMax partner, Clearwire, is having some problems of its own, with three of its top executives jumping ship.

If these rumors prove true, and Sprint decides that it cannot rely solely on WiMax to compete with AT&T and Verizon, then what? There is some speculation that Sprint might acquire T-Mobile to take advantage of T-Mobile's 3G HSPA network, but of course there are those who doubt that. Furthermore, if Sprint does acquire T-Mobile's (or someone else's) LTE-compatible network, will they ditch WiMax entirely or will they invest in new dual LTE/WiMax chips which could allow them to make use of both their existing WiMax network and the LTE network which they seem likely to build in the future? The questions are numerous, overlapping, and their answers will have wide-reaching consequences for the entire telecom industry.

What do you think Sprint should do? What will be best for smartphone users? What will be the best for technological innovation? What will be best for you?

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. Well that was interesting! Turns out AT&T read this blog post and decided to scoop up T-Mobile (and grow enough to compete more effectively with Verizon).

    The new question is, if this acquisition goes through, what will become of Sprint?