Clearwire will deploy LTE, Sprint will be a wholesale LTE partner - 2011 predictions

In August WiMAX provider Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) announced it would start testing LTE network technology. One month later, Clearwire Chief Commercial Office Mike Sievert said the operator had recorded peak download speeds of 90 Mbps in its initial testing of the technology in Phoenix. The results were notable considering that the carrier currently advertises that its WiMAX network provides download speeds of 3-6 Mbps, with bursts of 10 Mbps.

In an interview with FierceWireless in October, Sievert said that one of the main objectives of the LTE trial was to see if LTE could co-exist with WiMAX in case the company might want to deploy both technologies.

We believe that in 2011 Clearwire will begin deploying LTE throughout its network and offer it commercially in several markets with more to come in 2012. But don't expect Clearwire to end its WiMAX run. We think Clearwire will offer LTE alongside its mobile WiMAX service, giving potential wholesale partners a choice of providing either service to consumers.

The move to deploy LTE will not only future-proof Clearwire's network, which could become hamstrung by the dwindling support for WiMAX globally, but it will also provide the company with the ability to take advantage of the growing portfolio of LTE handsets and other devices.

We also think that Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), which is currently a shareholder and wholesale partner of Clearwire, will ink a wholesale deal with the company to sell LTE in addition to WiMAX.

Although there has been speculation that part of Sprint's network modernization project will include the deployment of LTE, we believe that Sprint will instead continue to be a wholesale partner of Clearwire--at least until its network modernization project is complete. Earlier this month Sprint Nextel announced it selected Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung for the project. However, the project is expected to take three to five years to complete, and Sprint will likely want access to LTE as soon as possible if it wants to stay competitive with Verizon and AT&T.

Clearwire will deploy LTE, Sprint will be a wholesale LTE partner - 2011 predictions