Is WiMAX Losing Its Edge?

The big advantage of WiMAX in the race to provide fourth-generation wireless services was supposed to be as a first mover: WiMAX boosters were counting on a lead of a year to a year and a half over deployments of rival LTE technology. But it looks like that edge may be slipping away.

Sprint announced plans today to offer Sprint 4G, its branding of Clearwire’s WiMAX service, in 10 U.S. markets during this year. No offense to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, Honolulu,. Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle, but these are mostly second-tier markets. Besides, counting Dallas and Fort Worth as two markets is cheating a bit, while Portland already gets Clearwire’s own service.

What’s really telling is the absence of Washington, D.C.—Sprint’s corporate home—from the list. Washington was supposed to get service shortly after Sprint launched its first market, Baltimore, last October. Now the Washington offering appears to be off the table until at least 2010.

Verizon Wireless is planning to begin LTE deployment before the end of the year. AT&T is also committed to LTE but has been mum on timing. The way things are going. Verizon and perhaps AT&T may be able to race ahead of struggling Sprint and Clearwire.

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