Is there a winner in the LTE vs. WiMAX debate?

At last week's WiMAX World conference in Chicago, some advocates were quick to claim a WiMAX victory in the 4G technology race. "WiMAX is here and it's paving the way for 4G" was a refrain I heard several times in the sessions and on the exhibit hall floor.

With the Sept. 29 commercial launch of Sprint-Nextel's mobile WiMAX service (called Xohm) in Baltimore, the WiMAX buzz is at an all-time high. The entire industry is anxiously watching Xohm's debut to see how it fares with consumers.

Ben Wolff, CEO and director of Clearwire, certainly has a lot riding on Sprint's Xohm launch. Last May, Clearwire announced it would merge with Sprint Nextel's WiMAX business to create a new company, also called Clearwire. The deal, which is expected to close by year-end, includes a $3.2 billion investment from Google, Intel, Comcast, Time Warner and others.

But even as one of mobile WiMAX's biggest fans, Wolff admits that it's unlikely that WiMAX (or any one technology) will win the 4G debate.  In an interview, Wolff told me that he expects the wireless industry will always have at least two technologies, perhaps more. "I think there are operators that will evolve along the HSPA+ path and never opt to deploy 4G or a 4G-like technology," Wolff said. "I don't think it is going to be as black and white as one (technology) wins and one loses. A lot of people don't realize that the most successful wireless operator--or one of the most successful wireless operators today--uses a technology that is only used by 13 percent of subscribers around the world. That certainly hasn't hampered Verizon's ability to be a fabulously successful wireless carrier."

You can see all of my keynote interview with Clearwire's Ben Wolff during "The Future of 4G Executive Summit" on Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. EST. The event, which is hosted by FierceWireless, is virtual and available for viewing via your desktop. Best of all, Ben will be available after the interview to answer any questions you may have about Clearwire, WiMAX and 4G. To register for the free event, click here.

But that's not all--the Future of 4G event also includes several interactive panels with experts who will delve into all aspects of the 4G debate. Panelists include Glenn Lurie, president of emerging devices at AT&T, Magnus Johansson, director, wireless broadband at Digicel Group, Durga Satapathy, manager, next generation access, technology development team at Sprint Nextel and more. Check out the full agenda here.

And finally, my colleague Jim Barthold, has delved into the 4G debate to give you some insight into the issues the wireless industry is debating right now. This special 4G report provides you with a sampling of all the compelling issues that we'll be discussing in more depth during our Oct. 15 virtual event. I hope you enjoy this special issue. -Sue

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