Clearwire’s planned move to LTE means Apple wouldn’t have any difficulties in building an iPhone that is compatible with its network, according to Clearwire CEO Eric Prusch.
Clearwire plans on moving to TD-LTE, and is working with China Mobile and India on global TD-LTE harmonization. A Qualcomm executive told CNET that there were three TD-LTE deployments as of January, and 20 ongoing trials. Major international carriers committed to the standard, including China Mobile, India’s Bharti, and Japan’s Softbank, which currently offers the 3G version of the iPhone.
In fact, the move to TD-LTE outstrips that of FD-LTE, according to Prusch, who said that 2 billion subscribers will be on TD-LTE by 2014. Clearwire intends to launch 5,000 TD-LTE cell sites by June 2013, and it recently raised $1.1 billion to help fund the buildout.
According to Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin, it would only cost an extra $3 to $4 to add Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum to a handset. “If it really doesn’t cost the carriers much we don’t see why AT&T and T-Mobile wouldn’t sign wholesale deals with Clearwire and order 2.5 GHz capable handsets just in case they need the additional capacity,” he wrote.
Qualcomm’s newest chipsets support both Clearwire’s TD-LTE network and Verizon/AT&T’s FD-LTE with just a software switch. Their MDM9225 and MDM9625 LTE modems support both LTE Advanced (LTE Release 10) and HSPA+ Release 10, and are backward compatible with other standards including EV-DO Advanced, TD-SCDMA and GSM. China Mobile uses the TD-SCDMA standard.
If an existing LTE carrier signs up with Clearwire, its phones will be able to do soft handoffs, flipping between the two LTE networks without breaking a call or dropping a connection, says John Saw, Clearwire’s CTO.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse will speak tomorrow at Mobile World Congress. Don’t expect any major announcements, but Qualcomm’s MDM9225 and MDM9625 LTE modems would go a long way for world-wide LTE and 3G compatibility and may make Clearwire’s spectrum a more viable option for carriers like AT&T who need spectrum.
It would be no big surprise if the LTE-enabled iPhone, expected this fall, supports the same TD-LTE standard used by China Mobile and Clearwire. Sprint would likely offer the “global phone” on both their FD and TD Networks. AT&T may have to go with the flow.
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