Clearwire's Morrow re-ignites 4G standards debate

LAS VEGAS--Bill Morrow, CEO of WiMAX operator Clearwire, said he isn't looking to wage a standards war with LTE. In fact, he told the audience at the CTIA Wireless 2010 trade show here that he advocates one all-IP standard in the future to enable worldwide roaming and drive economies of scale.

Clearwire’s Bill Morrow discusses the carrier’s WiMAX efforts during a keynote address."We are not going to fight a war," he said during the second-day keynote. "We are going to provide customers access. ... We can add on LTE if we need to. Once it reaches the equivalency to WiMAX, we can do that."

Though Clearwire has previously acknowledged it could move to LTE sometime in the future, it hasn't until now voiced a strong desire for one global standard for 4G. The topic did get kicked around last year, but has since died down as WiMAX gains traction and deployment strategies solidify (WiMAX for greenfield deployments and LTE for operators moving to the next generation).

When asked during a Verizon Wireless press conference today whether LTE and WiMAX could become one standard, CTO Tony Melone said he doesn't see the standards bodies coming together.

Indeed, the IEEE is developing WiMAX standards while the 3GPP is developing LTE standards. No one sees these groups coming together in the near term. But as the next generation of each technology evolves over the next three to five years, there may be an opportunity to merge the two, noted Lars Johnsson, vice president of business development with WiMAX chip company Beceem--especially as silicon vendors move toward supporting both technologies on one chip. (Beceem introduced last month the BCS5000 chipset that combines WiMAX and LTE, incorporating both time-division duplexing and frequency-division duplexing.)

Morrow cited Beceem's chip as a way to bridge the two technologies, and said his company has been in discussions with players like Vodafone and Intel to help push this concept along. "Shouldn't we all be thinking about how to bring this together so we have worldwide roaming? Let's deal with one solid technology as we go forward."

Morrow also reiterated Clearwire's goal of inserting WiMAX into a plethora of consumer electronics, ranging from digital cameras to gaming devices.

"We see a future where every consumer electronics device has connectivity to the Internet," Morrow said. He indicated the company has been in discussions with consumer electronics companies and could announce plans in the coming months. Indeed, Sprint Nextel and laptop vendor Lenovo this week announced plans to add 3G and 4G connections in future computing products.

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