WiMax vs. LTE: LIVE in NYC – NOVEMBER 15, 2010 (finally )

on July 2, 2010   |   4 comments

While there may be more important news breaking in the world; Oil gushing through beautiful habitat, 3D TV becoming a reality or top military brass slamming the Obama administration from the likes (of all places) of a Pop culture oasis, Verizon has announced that they will launch LTE in 25 markets covering 100 million POP’s on November 15, which should include the New York City metro area. The announcement is the first solid date of a Verizon LTE launch. The tech-savvy of this beautiful land finally have the battle, neigh, the showdown of a lifetime brewing in major markets across the country. It may very well turn out to be the most perpetual and ultimately trivial of match-ups in the history of technology – alas, the crew here in Manhattan is preparing for the final Armageddon of Next Generation connectivity.

Healthy Competition

It seems as though there’s been a lot of speak about the possibilities regarding the future of “unlimited data:”

“We will probably need to change the design of our pricing where it will not be totally unlimited, flat rate.” John Killian, CFO at Verizon said.

These kinds of statements aren’t surprising to me, given the natural inclination for users to “abuse” or overuse high bandwidth connections of any kind. In any event, I wonder what the tiers will actually boil down to – Will Verizon continue with its historically costly premiums for not that much bandwidth? Here’s an example of a Data plan that I could live with:

3G/4G access combined

20GB – $60/month
10GB – $40/month

I can accept this because Verizon will always charge a little more than EVERYONE else but still offer a great product. Personally, I will just continue to use my CLEAR account, which is $40/month (4G ONLY) for “UNLIMITED” data usage.

One in the Same

Sit down and speak with any expert and you will find that the similarities between WiMAX and LTE are striking. There are differences in modulation scheme both in the downlink and the uplink; both utilize different radio hardware and CPE units (obviously), but I won’t go into the nuts and bolts here. The two technologies are NOT CDMA VS. GSM. The differences between the two are less like OBAMA VS MCCAIN and more like OBAMA VS CLINTON; more of a “sibling” rivalry so to speak. Both technologies were designed at their core to carry data in an ALL IP core network, thus bringing a robust connection to end users. Performance will boil down to the SPECTRUM that the assorted wireless carriers are utilizing, not the technology. Why do I say this? Because the peak DL/UL speeds that are capable for the END USER are essentially identical between the two technologies, but the roadways that they travel to get there (spectrum) are markedly different. This battle of spectrum holdings will take place over many years – there will be no clear winner for years to come.

BRANDING

Ultimately, this will be what fuels subscriber growth over the next 24-36 months for the 4G wireless carriers. CLEAR has multiple advantages and multiple disadvantages in this conversation. A big disadvantage is that (in new markets that they launch) no one knows who they are. It’s difficult to get users to sign a two year agreement with a company with which they’ve never heard of. In the same sentence, it’s an advantage that people won’t have preconceived ideas about them. Everyone can name at least two or three people (yourself, family members) that has had a TERRIBLE experience with one of the big 4 wireless carriers. Clearwire  has the advantage of portraying themselves as a hip and blissful new ISP. If you can take that and then capitalize off of the perceived notion that Verizon and AT&T are consistently always trying to milk their customers for every penny, then you can position your hip new brand to be the status symbol of true cost savings (with their unlimited options) for true mobile broadband.

So Who Will You Subscribe To?

The Red vs. Blue vs. Green vs. Yellow battle is really where I see the story culminating; in a war of pricing and market segmentation, not nuts vs. bolts, but each company’s marketing departments utilizing and building brand strength in their core products to attract subscribers and keep churn low (the MO of any successful wireless carrier). If Verizon can price attractively I think that they will ultimately “win” – but Verizon is all too typically the squeezer of each and every nickel from its subs. If CLEAR can find the best way to penetrate user’s minds (branding) and buildings (network performance) then I think their uber-attractive pricing will solidify their status as a national brand. If Sprint could post a profit or AT&T could connect a quality call, they may do well also  Only time will truly tell, but the battle is heating up in Q4 in major markets across the Country…as an ill-tempered prima donna would always bark: get ya popcorn ready!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Debreziner July 5, 2010 at 4:45 am

I guess WiMAX vs LTE will be a capacity play in the US. Even if the peak and average rates from 10MHz FD-LTE will be around twice as fast as 10MHz TDD WiMAX there should be at least around 4 times the number of WiMAX towers as compared to LTE towers (driven by frequency and coverage). So Sprint should have a least double the capacity as compared to Verizon plus the option to turn on a second carrier (which Verizon does not due to lack of spectrum). Assuming the coverage of 2.5GHz will provide a good indoor user experience (which could be critical in certrain urban areas.

Debreziner July 5, 2010 at 8:45 am

I guess WiMAX vs LTE will be a capacity play in the US. Even if the peak and average rates from 10MHz FD-LTE will be around twice as fast as 10MHz TDD WiMAX there should be at least around 4 times the number of WiMAX towers as compared to LTE towers (driven by frequency and coverage). So Sprint should have a least double the capacity as compared to Verizon plus the option to turn on a second carrier (which Verizon does not due to lack of spectrum). Assuming the coverage of 2.5GHz will provide a good indoor user experience (which could be critical in certrain urban areas.

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