T-Mobile Weighs WiMax, LTE 4G Mobile Strategies

 
 
By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2010-05-05
 
 
 

WiMax or LTE? T-Mobile appears to be considering which technology to choose for its eventual 4G network support, according to a report from the Financial Times.
 
The carrier has reportedly been in talks with two companies about their competing technologies. Clearwire, which supplies Sprint's currently 27-city-strong WiMax network, could likewise extend "wholesale" WiMax capabilities that T-Mobile would repackage for its customers. And hedge fund Harbinger Capital plans to build a high-speed LTE (Long Term Evolution) network-the style of 4G chosen by AT&T and Verizon Wireless.
 
Harbinger's plan, however, calls for a hybrid 4G network that combines LTE technology with the satellite network assets it acquired during its March merger with SkyTerra.
 
The plan appears to take advantage of a 2003 U.S. FCC ACT (Ancillary Terrestrial Component) Order, which was created to support public safety and law enforcement officials and allows for simultaneous satellite and cellular services over licensed satellite spectrum that's additionally capable of supporting 4G services.
 
Some analysts have said they believe SkyTerra and other satellite communications companies have taken advantage of the ATC as a way of "squatting" on prime 4G territory.
 
"We believe that the green-field satellite companies' plan is to forge short-term roaming partnerships with AT&T and other cellular operators and then, when LTE services are deployed, position themselves to be acquired by these major players, including their prized spectrum," ABI analyst Kevin Burden explained in a July 2009 report. "It's unorthodox but clever."
 
In a March 26 statement announcing the Federal Communications Commission's approval of its merger with Harbinger, SkyTerra said it will launch the first of two satellites offering coverage in the United States and Canada later in 2010. The satellites, it said, are "expected to be among the largest and most powerful commercial satellites ever built."
 
Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile, has yet to decide whether to invest in its own 4G technology or couple with one of the two companies. What is known, however, is that there is an increasing need for high-speed networks that's being driven by worldwide smartphone growth.
 
T-Mobile was the first U.S. network to support a smartphone running Google's highly popular Android operating system, and on May 4 introduced its latest model running Android, the MyTouch Slide.
 
In the first quarter, worldwide smartphone shipments reached 55.2 million units, according to analysis company Canalys. iSuppli expects the overall mobile handset market to reach 1.4 million units by 2011, and to climb to 1.6 million by 2014.
 
"Smartphone growth will be driven by a number of promising developments," iSuppli analyst Tina Tang said in the April 27 report, "including the introduction of entry-level smartphones, enthusiasm from vendors across the mobile phone and PC industries, the prevalence of 3G network deployments, and the promotion of data-centric services in mature markets."
 
Harbinger made headlines recently when media reports that the hedge fund owned more than 9 percent of smartphone maker Palm, which at that time was up for sale, caused Palm stock prices to jump. Palm is now being purchased by PC maker Hewlett-Packard.

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