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4G alliances: Verizon and Spirent; Clearwire with WalMart and HTC

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 21 January, 2010

READ MORE: US | Verizon | Clearwire | Spirent Communications | Testing/Certification | LTE | WiMAX | Android

As WiMAX networks get real and LTE roll-outs loom, the early carriers are increasingly vying for the headlines. Sprint is using its market reach to help Clearwire, in which it is the largest stakeholder, punch above its weight in the US wireless sector. The latest developments, according to reports, could include a network deal with retail giant WalMart, while HTC is likely to supply the much promised first Clearwire smartphone this summer.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless is assembling the elements for its LTE roll-outs later this year in its 700MHz spectrum. Its latest move is to appoint long time testing partner Spirent Communications to handle initial certification of devices for the network. The companies say they now have the platform in place to test and approve LTE data cards and dongles - expected to be the main clients for at least the first year - though no device suppliers have yet gone public. Huawei, LG, Samsung and Nokia have all shown off prototype LTE USB modems or cards.


The testing deal highlights some of the dilemmas associated with the roll-out. One of the conditions attached to Verizon's 700MHz is support for open access, which should mean any device can ride on the network, but Verizon is still looking to certify devices, presumably on the basis of protecting its network and its security. The investment that carriers put into their own certification programs is one of the arguments often used in favor of WiMAX and Wi-Fi, which rely more heavily on an open retail model with centralized certification.

Despite this, Clearwire has worked closely with its early device providers, and WiMAX players admit that, in the first phase at least, a measure of operator specific testing has been necessary, before the standards and ecosystem fully mature. Among these new devices may be a smartphone from HTC, running dual-mode CDMA/WiMAX and Android, and reportedly codenamed the Supersonic.

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow has promised smartphones this summer, to join data cards, dongles and the occasional MID on the rapidly expanding 2.5GHz network. Android is a logical software choice, given that Google is an investor and has worked closely on Clearwire's Silicon Valley developer sandbox. And HTC is always a frontrunner in Android, as well as being carrier friendly, and having already created a dual-mode GSM/WiMAX handset for Yota in Russia.

The Supersonic, or HTC A9292, is doing the rounds of the rumor mill, and leaks suggest it will be similar to the Windows Mobile HD2 or upcoming Android Bravo, which sport gigahertz processors and large touchscreens, with special focus on high end video and multimedia. This would give the Supersonic a 4.3-inch touchscreen (but no AMOLED) and slim dimensions around 11mm. Like the HTC/Verizon Imagio, it seems to have a kickstand on the back and probably runs the Snapdragon as an apps processor, with a WiMAX baseband.

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