Clearwire and Sprint’s 4G WiMAX network has been hitting every bump on the road towards their nationwide network rollout, and it looks like they’re coming up against yet more obstacles. According to WiMAX carrier Clear, we won’t be seeing any WiMAX-capable smartphones coming to market anytime before the end of 2010 – possibly the rumored HTC Supersonic. And, if WiMAX’s history of launch delays continues, that target window could slip to 2011. On the bright side, though, Clear has confirmed that WiMAX phones will use either VoIP software or Sprint’s CDMA network to route voice calls, which removes some of the uncertainty surrounding how voice calls will be handled by the 4G network.
As it stands right now, WiMAX is the only viable 4G mobile broadband network available in the US, built jointly by Sprint and Clearwire. Unfortunately, the network has yet to go fully nationwide. There are certain markets with WiMAX fully up and running, but they’re few and far between. Without any WiMAX phones launching until sometime around 2011, Sprint and Clearwire may lose mobile broadband market share – not to mention the arguably more important “mind share” – to Verizon’s upcoming 4G LTE network, which is capable of higher data speeds. Verizon said previously that they’ll have LTE online in 2010, with AT&T claiming an LTE network launch in 2011, just in time to compete with WiMAX.
In the meantime, we’ll be limited to using 3G/4G mobile hotspots like Sprint’s Overdrive Hotspot. It’s a start, but will WiMAX be relevant in the long run? That’s a good question.