ATandT Lags Behind Competitors in 4G Deployment
Verizon Wireless, meanwhile, has already begun shipping 4G LTE devices and is expected to announce more at CES. Sprint has been shipping 4G WiMax smartphones since the summer of 2010 and is announcing a new, low-cost 4G Android phone at CES, called the Evo Shift. AT&T said in its announcement that it will complete deployment of its LTE network by the end of 2013, nearly a year later than the planned completion of the Verizon Wireless LTE network, which is expected to be complete early in 2013. Sprint's 4G rollout is progressing slowly, hampered by financial and management problems at its Clearwire partner, which provides most of its WiMax service. Clearwire has already sold some of its debt to raise operating money. Then on Dec. 31, 2010, founding Chairman Craig McCaw abruptly resigned from the company.While the WiMax from Clearwire is suffering its own rollout pains, the company is also readying a launch of LTE technology and has been testing that technology in the Phoenix area for several months. Whether that means the Clearwire can bring LTE to Sprint or T-Mobile remains to be seen, but given its massive spectrum ownership, it's certainly an attractive target. AT&T, however, is unlikely to benefit from the confusion in other parts of the LTE market. When it launches its initial rollout of LTE services, the company will be far behind the rest of the market, both in technological capability and in its marketing presence. While it has just started referring to its network as a 4G solution, AT&T's current level of performance makes that claim a stretch. Given that the rest of the industry has been claiming 4G services for months, AT&T is also behind in its marketing initiative, which is perhaps even more critical. Right now, AT&T 4G has almost no mindshare, and it'll take more than a few 4G wireless signs in Las Vergas to overcome that.
The financial problems and turmoil at Clearwire promise to slow Sprint's 4G rollout significantly. Unless another major investor can be found, it's possible that Clearwire may not be able to survive, according to analysts who speculate that McCaw left the company to avoid being present when things started going bad. However, others speculate that McCaw's departure was intended to help pave the way for a major investment by T-Mobile, which has been negotiating with Clearwire for nearly a year.