August 11, 2010, 9:20 PM — Don't ask Matt Carter, president of 4G at Sprint Nextel, about LTE, a competing wireless technology. He wants to focus on Sprint's use of WiMax for 4G wireless networks.
"Our position is that we are singularly focused around WiMax and there's no waivering on that view from us," Carter said Wednesday in an interview with Computerworld.
"Does the amount of wireless spectrum [Sprint has available] give us the opportunity in some time to to convert to LTE or run LTE alongside WiMax? Yes. We built the 4G network in a manner to give us that flexibility," Carter said. "But we don't want to confuse the market and our ecosystem of suppliers and customers. We are deploying WiMax."
Sprint, with 48 million wireless customers on its various networks, has more than 1 million customers using 4G with WiMax, connecting over various devices including USB WiMax modems for laptops, WiMax-equipped laptops and even the new HTC Evo 4G smartphone , Carter said.
Sprint's WiMax is deployed over its partner Clearwire's WiMax infrastructure in 48 U.S. cities. Carter demonstrated use of the soon-to-ship Samsung Epic smartphone over WiMax in downtown Boston, where WiMax service will be officially turned on in coming weeks. Sprint said WiMax has the capability to reach 55 million people in those 48 cities, and should reach 120 million people by year's end.
LTE, for Long Term Evolution, is an emerging high-speed wireless technology that is supported by Verizon Wireless and AT&T for its next-generation 4G networks. LTE has technical similarities to WiMax and is expected to be far more widely deployed by carriers worldwide than WiMax, which will make its biggest appearance in developing countries.
Despite what Carter said about Sprint's strong support for WiMax, there are signs that Sprint will eventually support LTE, at least in tandem with WiMax. For one (insignificant as it may be), even Carter's title is not "president of WiMax," but rather "president of 4G."
More importantly, Sprint's WiMax infrastructure supplier Clearwire is about to conduct trials of LTE technology in Phoenix starting this fall, using spectrum that Clearwire already controls. Sprint is the majority shareholder of Clearwire, and is joined in ownership by some cable operators and others.
Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow has said that LTE over Clearwire could offer speeds between 20 Mbit/sec. and 70 Mbit/sec., compared with 5 Mbit/sec. to 12 Mbit/sec. from other LTE operators. The difference is because Clearwire has so much radio spectrum to use.