LTE - The 4G Network Technology Standard!
4G network technology was a big deal when it first launched.
Unlike 3G, it promised the ability to have a landline
Internet experience (ex. streaming video) on mobile devices.
Here's some history for those of you who like to understand
the origin of technologies and markets. The first 4G wireless
technology, and 4G
phones that became available in the U.S. were offered by Sprint on its
technology. Why was this so interesting?
Well, WiMAX was not the next generation wireless technology
that was being adopted in other countries. 4G LTE (Long Term
Evolution) technology was being talked about as the
next widespread, universal wireless broadband technology.
What was really interesting (at least to me!) was that 4G
only being talked about as a potential worldwide standard, much like
GSM had become the most popular cellular technology compared to CDMA.
However, with a seemingly fresh start, countries and carriers
really wanted to avoid a battle like we saw with GSM vs. CDMA.
Even though GSM was considered more of a global standard,
had hundreds of millions of subscribers, and numerous massive carriers
across the globe using it. When thinking about the next
generation of mobile broadband technology, it would benefit everyone to
converge on one true global standard. This would ultimately
result in lower phone costs, and a better customer experience when
traveling or switching carriers.
that said, Sprint made the strategic decision to launch 4G WiMAX
instead of an LTE 4G network. Why? Because 4G LTE
the planning stages, while WiMAX was a real, working technology with
equipment that was actually available to purchase and deploy.
Also, as an open standard, any company could provide WiMAX
equipment, which, in theory, would make it less expensive to deploy and
maintain. At the time (call it 2009), this seemed like a
huge strategic advantage for Sprint. In other words, Sprint
could be the first wireless provider to offer 4G broadband to the
masses almost two solid years before anyone else. The
for a first-mover competitive advantage like that was too appealing to
So why have any hesitation at all to launch a WiMAX 4G network?
LTE was expected to have much faster theoretical speeds than WiMAX, and
was being talked about as the next global standard in mobile broadband.
So the question became: "Launch NOW with fast
speeds (compared to the existing 3G technology) and have a competitive
advantage, OR wait to see what standard
evolves, and whether LTE actually emerges as a real, viable 4G wireless
Sprint decided to take the risk.
It, however, became too expensive to manage directly, so it
spun off its 4G department into a new company called Clearwire (later
changing its name to Clear), of which it would own 51%.
Anyway, a long story short, Sprint launched a limited number
4G phones and mobile broadband Internet modems. Generally
they were a success in terms of first to market, however, in the latter
part of 2010 LTE came into
the U.S. in full force with MetroPCS, Verizon, and then AT&T
and T-Mobile in 2011.
Competition became quite fierce, and Clear talked about bankruptcy
for the better part of a year. Sprint ultimately shut down
WiMAX on November 6th, 2015. So did Sprint make the right
decision? Clearly not. Making the wrong choice was
expensive, slow to rollout in a meaningful way, resulting in
disgruntled customers, and an overall distraction from rolling out LTE
in a timely fashion. That said, hindsight is always 20:20, and their
logic was, well, logical at the time. Risky, but logical.
Unfortunately, Sprint as a company couldn't afford to take
such a risk and lose, and it arguably still hasn't recovered as it
continues to strengthen its LTE network.
more about WiMAX technology visit the Prepaid
page. You can also compare broadband
technologies and speeds at Prepaid
or learn about LTE and other acronyms on