4G Blog by 4Ginfo.com

News, info, reviews, and opinions on WiMAX, LTE, Clearwire, XOHM, and Sprint 4G

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sprint announced the industry's first dual mode 3G and 4G device today, the Sprint 4G U300 (by Franklin Wireless). This USB dongle will allow you to access all of Sprint's mobile broadband networks, including EVDO Rev-A and WiMAX! Currently, 4G is ONLY available in Baltimore, but they will be expanding throughout 2009.

The device will cost $199.99 with a 2 year contract and will be available after 12/21/08; the monthly charge will be $79.99 for EVDO and 4G access. It is unclear what the usage limits will be, but I'd imagine it would be 5GB like most mobile broadband. Unfortunately, it is NOT Mac compatible, which is strange, since all other Franklin devices have been Mac compatible out of the box - this is probably because they don't (yet) have Mac support for their 4G network at all.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's a bird... it's a plane... it's... LTE news?!

WiMAX has dominated all of our 4G sites, blogs, and forums lately, but lest you have forgotten, there IS a second 4G mobile broadband internet technology - LTE! Many companies, including biggies like Verizon and AT&T have chosen to work towards building out LTE networks rather than WiMAX, but deployment and availability of LTE has been estimated to be several years behind WiMAX, which is why we don't hear nearly as much about it.

This week, though, brought about not one, not two, but THREE nuggets of LTE news!

First, Qualcomm announced that they are building a dual mode modem that will operate on both LTE and HSPA+ and that they plan to have it ready for second quarter of 2009 - whether there is a network to use it with or not. Senior VP Encrico Salvatori elaborated, saying much "still depends on a number of very uncertain factors, many of which are dependent on mobile network operators' plans and investment priorities about how and when to roll out this next stage of wireless technology" - in other words, they are steaming ahead at full speed with their chip-making plans even though they have no control over actual network availability.

Also in the news this week: LG, another electronics giant you are surely familiar with, showed off their first modem, an LTE-ready chip to be used in future 4G phones. They're estimating that the first 4G phones will come out in 2010, but without a network right now anybody's guess is as good as anyone else's!

Then, on the heels of those two hardware-creation updates, Verizon CTO and VP Dick Lynch announced during a speech that Verizon is accelerating their plans and vows to have an active LTE network "somewhere here in the U.S. probably this time next year." A lofty goal indeed, considering previous estimates were looking more in the 2012 range, but a wise move by Verizon/Vodafone if they do indeed have the resources necessary to build out a new network. Remember, part of the reason Clearwire is able to roll out their WiMAX network so aggressively is because of that 3+ billion in investment dollars the merger with Sprint afforded them - developing, testing, and deploying a new network doesn't come cheap. However, if they can pull it off, they will beat competitors like AT&T to the market, which will pay off big time in the long run!

Discuss Verizon's LTE plans on the 4G Forums

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Monday, December 08, 2008

The newly formed Clearwire is only a week old, but they are wasting no time picking up where Sprint left off and moving forward with their new brand. As you probably know by now, the closure of the merger between Clearwire and Sprint's WiMAX division gives Clearwire all of Sprint's WiMAX assets as well as access to several billion dollars of investment money from the likes of Google, Intel, and of course Sprint.

Clearwire's WiMAX service is called "Clear", and XOHM is being re-branded to match. As far as we can tell, there won't be any interruption in service for users already signed up with XOHM - it's simply a matter of re-branding. The new Clear WiMAX network debuted in Portland last week, and while the new clear.com website does NOT bother giving us any sort of coverage map to look at, you can type in an address and see if service is available. You can't take a look at the plans or see how much the modems cost unless you confirm your coverage first, so I used the Portland Fire Department's address and was able to peruse their offerings. Here's what I found:

Essentially, Clear's service structure is set up very similarly to XOHM's. You have the option of "home" service with a Motorola home modem - it plugs into the wall and then you can connect either via ethernet or hook it up to a regular WiFi router - or "mobile" service with a Motorola w100 USB dongle. Like XOHM, Clear has no-contract options, but you also have the option of signing a 2-year Clear contract and getting some discounts, including waivers of the $35 activation fee. The cost of the devices themselves is the same whether you sign the contract or not, though - $49.99 for the USB dongle and $175 for the home modem - so I would imagine that most people will opt to steer clear of contracts (pun 100% intended).

The other interesting thing that Clear has done with their plans is give you options for speed with the home modem and usage with the USB device. With the home modem, you are guaranteed unlimited bandwidth (let's see how long that lasts), but you can choose the speed you pay for: $20/month for 768 Kbps/128 Kbps, $30 for 3.0 Mbps/384 Kbps, or $40 for 6.0 Mbps/512 Kbps. With the USB modem, you are limited to 4.0 Mbps/384 Kbps, but you can choose from three bandwidth plans: 200mb for $30, 2GB for $40, or unlimited (again - enjoy it while it lasts!) for just $50/month.

While these new plans offer a lot of flexibility and can help occasional users save money by giving them a cheap, low-usage option, it all seems a bit much. Even the most expensive plans offered by Clear are still very competitive - and cheaper than EVDO - so I doubt many customers will choose to forgo the potentially awesome speeds Clear can offer in favor of saving $10 a month.

Discuss the CLEAR plans and products on the 4G Forums

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