The Overhype of WiMAX and LTE

By Doug Mohney August 02, 2011

I've had a Sprint HTC EVO phone for over a year and the WiMAX service/technology has to be the most disappointing part of the deal.   I suspect a lot of people in Verizon Wireless LTE land are less gung-ho about (true) 4G broadband than they once were.

Part of the annoyance has had to do with the $10 per month "WiMAX tax" that Sprint tacked onto phone service from day one. WiMAX coverage in the Washington DC area started out sparse and has slowly grown into a spotty patchwork of green (coverage) across the Northern Virginia area. A look at a Clearwire map of the DC area in August 2011 looks like someone started using a green paintbrush on top of the map for an abstract of a tree, with open areas between leaves and branches.

To compound matters, leaving the WiMAX radio on drains down the battery as it tries to hunt for a data connection -- WiFi writ large.

Finally, if I want to tether/get broadband to other devices, I have to pay another $30 dollars a month to enable the mobile hotspot feature.   But I don't have to pay anything for Sprint TV or NASCAR Sprint Cup mobile -- things I don't use and don't want to use.

Needless to say, WiMAX tends to stay turned off so I run 3G and there's no big differences in the convenience of reading email or using simple apps like Twitter and Foursquare.  With more public places starting to offer free WiFi, the case for WiMAX -- or LTE -- on a smart phone starts to grow weaker between the extra cost and the battery life issue.

Does this mean a migration to LTE in my future?   I am not so sure.  

LTE has the same power consumption issues as WiMAX. I suspect Verizon will have better, more ubiquitous LTE coverage just due to the characteristics of the 700 MHz spectrum and physics involved, so I should have faster broadband available in more places rather than the abstract green tree coverage map.

There's also the longer-term issue of LTE's hype to be used for everything from smart devices to appliances.   I know there's a lot of rah-rah about how wonderful my networked fridge or washer would be with an LTE chip, but you could do the same thing with WiFi or powerline at half the price -- and not be bound to a single vendor. 

Besides, if you already have a high-speed broadband connection into the home via fiber (FiOS) or cable, why do your appliances need to consume more power so they can sit on a high speed mobile broadband network? Call me old-fashioned, but some things are better left un-networked.

Want to learn more about 4G wireless technologies? Then be sure to attend the 4GWE Conference, collocated with TMC’s ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. The 4GWE Conference provides unmatched networking opportunities and a robust conference program representing the wireless ecosystem. The conference not only brings together the best and brightest in the wireless industry, it actually spans the communications and technology industry. To register, click here.


Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Doug Mohney is a contributing editor for TechZone360 and a 20-year veteran of the ICT space. To read more of his articles, please visit columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Contributing Editor

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