Mobile ecosystem makes strides

Industry to get WiMAX phone, dual-mode WiMAX/LTE chips

Multiple cylinders are firing within the mobile ecosystem, which should help network speeds keep pace with mobile devices and vice versa.

Clearwire expects its WiMAX network with joint venture partner Sprint Nextel to cover 120 million people in the United States by year-end. So that users have something to connect to it, Sprint has announced its first WiMAX phone for the network, the HTC EVO, which runs the Android mobile operating system and is due to ship this summer.

WIMAX is here: What you need to know

The EVO is being billed as the first U.S. 4G phone, capable of falling back to 3G (EV-DO Rev. A) signals. It supports high-definition videoconferencing and can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot connecting up to eight devices. Pricing has yet to be announced.

Note that while the term "4G" is being used liberally to describe the EVO and next-generation broadband mobile networks in general, formal standards for 4G are yet to be determined. Among the several contenders are 802.16m, a next-generation WiMAX air interface, and LTE-Advanced. 4G standards fall under the purview of the International Telecommunication Union – Radiocommunication (ITU-R) sector and call for 100Mbps mobile data rates and 1Gbps stationary rates, while near-term WiMAX and LTE data rates fall more in the vicinity of 10Mbps.

Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow's widely reported keynote address from the International CTIA Wireless 2010 event, in fact, encouraged some convergence of WiMAX and LTE industry efforts. He indicated that working together instead of vehemently pitting one technology against the other would contribute to having "worldwide roaming and worldwide scale." That's something enterprises have been requesting for many years.

In that spirit, a dual-mode WiMAX/LTE chipset announced at Mobile World Congress by Beceem Communications last month and due by the end of next year could eventually contribute to future handsets' ability to use the "best available" mobile network -- LTE or WiMAX. Products built on it will support "seamless roaming and switching between [different configurations] as needed," according to the company's Feb.16 announcement.

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