weBoost | December 20, 2012

weboostWhat’s the deal with WiMAX 4G? Is it even relevant anymore?

We have spent some time the last couple of months digging deeper into 4G’s bag of tricks and comparing the various protocols that dare to call themselves ‘4G’. We’ve covered LTE and HSPA+. Next up: WiMAX. The big question about WiMAX is whether or not it’s even relevant anymore given the big shift towards LTE as “the” 4G protocol of choice.

According to PC Magazine’s Sascha Segan, “The WiMAX story actually began with home connections instead of phones. WiMAX started out as a way to deliver wireless broadband to homes and businesses. In many parts of the country, ‘wireless ISPs’ still deliver home broadband via WiMAX.”

Sprint is the only U.S. carrier that uses this protocol for its 4G and is the only carrier that has ever used it. In addition, Sprint was the first major U.S. carrier to throw its hat into the 4G ring. The company launched its WiMAX network in September of 2008. In the article I cited above Segan sheds some light on why the company took the WiMAX gamble:

“At the time, 3G networks ran at about one megabit per second, and Sprint’s XOHM WiMAX promised to be at least twice as fast. Sprint took the WiMAX bet in part because at the time it was backed by Intel, which promised to put WiMAX into dozens of laptops and help make WiMAX the worldwide standard. It was also backed by Nokia, which was, at the time, the world’s number-one cell phone company.“

Most folks agree that while WiMAX is noticeably faster than 3G networks it’s the slowest of the three 4G protocols. In fact, Gizmodo’s Andrew Tarantola quipped in June that, “the only thing slower than the Sprint 4G WiMAX network is the Sprint 3G network.”

In fact, Sprint seems to be abandoning WiMAX. According to CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt the wireless carrier is no longer launching handsets that use WiMAX technology. This information begs the question: What is Sprint moving to as its 4G of choice? Yep, you guessed it…LTE. According to Gizmodo’s Tarantola the company is launching its LTE network the end of this year in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, and San Antonio with plans to cover the rest of the U.S. by the end of 2014.

As we’ve taken a look at the different 4G options one thing is clear. LTE seems to have won the day. Although a huge part of 4G has been marketing hype according to all mobile experts, LTE is still pretty fast and has shown that it truly is the next big thing in mobile communications.