Clearwire Cuts TD-LTE Deployment

Clearwire will significantly cut the number of TD-LTE sites it plans to deploy from 5,000 sites by mid-year 2013 to 2,000 sites, reports Fierce Wireless. The company said that the reduction in TD-LTE sites was to better align its buildout with that of Sprint, which plans to offload excess LTE data traffic onto Clearwire’s network.

Clearwire CEO Erik Prusch, during the company’s earnings call explained that Sprint will introduce LTE-capable data devices that can access the 2.5 GHZ band in the second quarter of next year, with 2.5 GHz-capable smartphones coming in the third quarter. “This is prudent and it preserves cash so we don’t build in advance of the revenue stream,” Prusch added.

At the end of third quarter 2012, Clearwire operated networks in the U.S. covering areas where approximately 135 million people reside, relatively flat as compared to the prior year period. Clearwire ended third quarter 2012 with approximately 10.5 million total subscribers.

Chinese vendor Huawei is one of two vendors that will build its planned TD-LTE network, Clearwire confirmed to FierceWireless. Huawei, Samsung and Motorola built Clearwire’s existing WiMAX network. Motorola sold its networks business to Nokia Siemens Networks in 2011.

Clearwire said it will use Samsung and Huawei gear to upgrade its WiMAX network to TD-LTE.

Last month the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence recommended that the U.S. government and U.S. companies avoid using equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE because the two vendors pose a security threat. Both Huawei and ZTE have denied those claims and so has the Chinese government.

Clearwire CTO John Saw said that there are no longer domestic suppliers of radio base station equipment and that Samsung and Huawei base stations are deployed at the edge of the network, while the core network equipment, or the “brains” of the network, is being provided by domestic vendors Cisco and Ciena.

Clearwire said it is subjecting every LTE base station vendor to a “Trusted Delivery Program” in which it requires that the vendors’ base stations and software pass extensive testing by a U.S. government-approved third party company recognized for vetting critical infrastructure systems for security weaknesses.

ABI Research says LTE subscribers passed WiMAX in 2Q12. The report also predicts that LTE handsets will surpass 80-percent of device shipments during 2016.

ABI estimates that, “global TDD LTE coverage will have addressable population coverage of 4.4 billion by 2014 if network rollouts in key countries are aggressive.” The report also outlines the economies of scale for the device ecosystem and projects that “every LTE device will support both TDD and FDD technologies,” given their commonality.

Clearwire owns nearly all the spectrum in the 2.5-2.6 GHz band and plans to use Time Division LTE on nearly all their spectrum (defined as Band 41). Other countries, particularly in Europe, have divided the 2.6 GHz band into two chunks; one for Time Division (band 39) and one for Frequency Division (band 7) (pdf).

Band 7 is the paired 140 Mhz-wide FD-LTE band from 2500-2570/2620-2690. Band 39 is the 50 MHz-wide TD-LTE band in Europe, from 2570-2620. That means three big carriers could grab 20Mhz x 2, while any TD-LTE competitors would not likely be able to get a single 40 MHz chunk.

Guess who helped devise that plan.

The China Mobile, Clearwire, Softband approach would use all of the 2.6 GHz band for TD-LTE, defined as band 38. The Global TD-LTE Initiative (GTI) announced that China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile network, Softbank Japan, the largest current TD-LTE provider, and Clearwire, the major proponent of TD-LTE in the United States, are working together to devote nearly the entire 200 MHz band to TD-LTE (band 41), and to make their infrastructure and consumer equipment interoperable and compatible.

Leading TDD operators, include China Mobile, India’s Bharti Airtel, South Korea’s KT, Japan’s SoftBank, the US ClearWire, UK Broadband and P1.

The new TD-LTE spectrum usage plan is likely to be controversial. Several countries in Europe, such as the UK, plan to auction the 2.6 GHz spectrum early next year. They are likely to go ahead with a shared TD/FD approach, formulated several years ago at the ITU’s World Telecommunications Forum.

The UK’s OFCOM will likely auction the spectrum early next year. UK mobile operators will be able to bid of the 800MHz and 2.6GHZ frequency bands. Australia will auction its Digital Dividend in April 2013, determined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Brazil’s four largest mobile operators all acquired 4G 2.6 GHz spectrum this June, netting BRL2.72 billion (US$1.3 billion) in total for the government.

I admit I’m no engineer, but it seems to me that the need for frequency division died with voice. Data is inherently asymmetrical. Two radios and two antennas just increase cost and lower efficiency (since one channel is always “listening”).

Nearly every study of projected cellular networks traffic shows voice dropping off to a very small percentage of traffic and revenue. Paired frequencies waste spectrum.

Why do so many countries and telecommunications agencies continue to carve up valuable spectrum into narrow islands of wasteful frequency division?

It’s about power and money.

Big telecom companies don’t want competition. They have the money. They pay off governments for wasteful use of spectrum to the detriment of consumers.

It seems criminal.

Related Dailywireless articles include; South Korea Completes Nationwide LTE Coverage, Brazilian 4G Auction Raises $1.3B, Huawei LTE 4×4: Goes to 250 Mbps, Clearwire and China Mobile Announce TD-LTE Testing Plan, Europe Supports Shared Spectrum, Blowback on 2.6 GHz Sprint’s Network Vision Detailed, Clearwire Chooses LTE Advanced, China Mobile + Clearwire + Apple?, Dish LTE-Advanced Called “Ollo”

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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