Sprint, Clearwire: 4G jump start looks sweeter with both WiMax and LTE

Sprint and Clearwire may be seeing the stars align for a 4G strategy that gives them a true jump start in the 4G rollout.

Could the stars be aligning in a way that Sprint - the first network to introduce 4G wireless technology to consumers - is positioning itself as a long-term contender in the battle for 4G?

Or at least for a merger with T-Mobile USA.

The latest twist in the 4G ecosystem comes from Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who told the Financial Times that he's now considering using the Long Term Evolution, or LTE, 4G technology. That, of course, would be on top of WiMax, a 4G technology that's already being deployed by Sprint, via a partnership with Clearwire.

It's a move that makes sense for Sprint, which is sitting on enough radio spectrum to launch an LTE infrastructure alongside the WiMax one, Hesse said. And it stands to reason that T-Mobile USA, which once reportedly considered a bid for Sprint but decided against it because the two used different 3G technologies, might be thinking merger again.

If Sprint is also running an LTE infrastructure, the barrier to a merger is down. Of course, Hesse wasn't saying all of that in his comments to the Financial Times - but it doesn't take much to see the picture starting to come into focus.

After all, it wasn't that long ago - just some two months ago - that Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow told analysts during an earnings call that the company had overcome a business deal that prevented Clearwire for dabbling in LTE, as well. That deal, with Intel, limited Clearwire to move beyond WiMax until February 2012. The two have since decided that deal wasn't in the best interests of technology. During that earnings call, Morrow said:

This is seen in a collaborative approach. We believe that technology needs to converge as we go forward and in the future there are so many similarities, probably an 80% overlap of LTE and WiMAX. So Intel, we believe, sees that too, and we all have to start thinking differently.

So now you have Sprint and Clearwire - which Sprint also happens to hold majority ownership in - both talking about using the WiMax and LTE technologies. The advantage that Sprint has over its competitors is that it can deliver 4G technology today via WiMax - and that's a good place to be.

Let's face it: the LTE rollout won't happen fast. In the meantime, Sprint would like to offer you a WiMax experience.

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