Clearwire's LTE musings ripple, but don't shock

Would WiMAX pioneer Clearwire seriously consider an about-face move and deploy LTE technology down the road after being such a staunch defender of mobile WiMAX?

During a press conference earlier this week to announce the completion of its merger with Sprint's Xohm business unit and the influx of $3.2 billion in capital from a bevy of companies including Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google, Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff told reporters that while Clearwire is committed to WiMAX, it wound consider LTE in the future "if it makes sense for us to do so several years from now when LTE becomes commercially available."

That statement caused some ripples throughout the WiMAX community and is stirring up a lot of speculation about Clearwire's long-term plans. However, I don't think the industry should read too much into Wolff's statement.  When I spoke with him earlier this fall for the FierceWireless' Future of 4G Interactive Summit, Wolff explained that he doesn't think the wireless world of the future will be divided into two camps: LTE vs. WiMAX.  Instead, he believes that there will be devices with multiple radios and consumers will have access to multiple networks. Whether one carrier offers WiMAX or LTE or a combination of both won't really matter as long as the consumer has mobile broadband connectivity when and where they want it.

With that view in mind, Wolff's statement about Clearwire possibly considering LTE in the future doesn't seem so shocking. In fact IMS Research analyst Bob Perez says that Wolff's statement only implies that Clearwire "wants to position itself to best take advantage of the economies of scale that LTE offers."

But Perez also warns that dual-mode WiMAX/LTE may not be as easy as it sounds and the two networks may not co-exist harmoniously--at least not without some additional development work. That statement isn't surprising. When has any dual-mode technology scenario been as easy as initially thought?  -- Sue