LTE vs WiMAX – The 4G Mobile Broadband Shootout

wimax versus lte comparison logoThe future of the US mobile broadband market is taking shape right before our very eyes, with both the LTE and WiMAX flavors of 4G wireless data networks promising to deliver the internet to your mobile phone at speeds that might give your home broadband connection a case of “bandwidth envy.” But, with heavyweights behind both the LTE and WiMAX 4G technologies battling it out for mind share (that’s you, silly), it can be confusing to figure out which side of the great wireless Internet divide you should be sitting. That’s where IntoMobile comes in. This is where we break down the pros and cons of each technology to help you decide whether or not to go with WiMAX now or wait for LTE in the near future.Comparing the pros and cons of LTE vs WiMAX as alternative 4G    mobile broadband technologies. Each tech offers benefits over the other    wireless data standard.

Carriers across the US and around the world are racing to build the next-generation of data networks to meet ever increasing demand for fast internet connections available at the press of a button. And, they have something in common – both technologies use the same fundamental wireless standard – known as OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), which is just a fancy way to say “chopping data up into little bundles.” WiMAX, which is available now, offers peak wireless data speeds of up to 6 Mbps on the downstream and 1 Mbps for sending data upstream. It’s arch-rival, Long Term Evolution (LTE), can ferry data to you at download speeds of 100 Mbps and support upload speeds of 50 Mbps. That would make LTE the clear winner. Right? Well, that depends.

If you’re looking for right-now mobile broadband service, the WiMAX services currently offered by Clearwire and Sprint are your best (and only) bet. There are already a handful of WiMAX-capable devices on market that can take advantage of the nascent 4G tech. You can light up your home or smartphone with blazing fast wireless data today, as in right this moment (as long as you live in one of the 15 US States where Clearwire has managed to launch their network). There are also open-standards issues that make WiMAX more friendly for consumers and carriers alike. Sprint uses Clearwire’s infrastructure for the Sprint 4G network, so all this applies to Sprint as well.

Flip the coin, and you get the arguments for LTE being the standard of choice. Proponents, such as ourselves at times, will tell you that LTE has been shown to hit wireless download speeds of up to 100 Mbps. That means you can download about two 5-minute MP3 files every second. Think about that. Sure, it would only take WiMAX about seven minutes to download a single 5-minute MP3 file, which is still fast, but it’s nowhere near the theoretical scale of LTE. What’s more, Verizon, AT&T (although it plans to upgrade their network to offer 14.4 Mbps speeds first), T-Mobile (although, T-Mobile USA is concentrating on HSPA+ upgrades to deliver broadband-like speeds), and even MetroPCS have all thrown their weight behind the LTE standard in the US.

It’s a tough choice. We know. But, seeing as how WiMAX is available now, we’re going to have to give the win to WiMAX. The infographic below should make that abundantly clear. If not, or you disagree, let us know in the comments below!

  • Joeyfallon

    You mean seven seconds for the Wimax download I take it ?

  • Mace

    Once again, some US operators will make the same mistake of selecting niche technologies with no long term future. There is no fundamental difference in the two tech, but still LTE will be clear winner in every aspect. It will be the global tech backed up by all nwk and device vendors. LTE has a clear evolution path up-to 1Gbps bit rates, femto cells etc. It has global roaming and great interworking with other tech. The R&D investment to LTE is huge compared to Wimax which will become the Betamax of 4G.

    • Chris_avila

      Isn’t WiMax supposed to be able to reach 1Gbps in its next generation too?

  • PhilR

    How old is the information presented on that infographic? There are 4G Wimax markets in both Maryland (Baltimore was the initial market for Sprint's Xohm service before it was folded into Clear) and Pennsylvania has several Wimax cities (Philadelphia, Harrisburg, York, some others).

  • Techwatch

    only a matter of time before landline internet becomes obsolete which may be followed by a big drop in landline subscriptions

  • guest

    The speed comparisons between WiMAX and LTE appear to be comparing real-world WiMAX speeds with theoretical/lab LTE speeds. The theoretical speeds of the two technologies are not nearly that far apart.

    • Guest2

      agreed..seriously the author looks biased…Wimax theoretically has download speed of 72Mbps at 72 Kms..but in reality we get 6Mbps download…lets see how much we get in reality with LTE.

      • Sven

        I get 15-30 Mbps while moving and at tops 50Mbps when I'm stationary (which is max for the mast I was connected to). This is on Telia's LTE in Stockholm, they say the speed will double when the service is fully released and they update to rev 10.
        However, this is still not a released service but customers with 4g modems can try it out, so the load is minimal on the network.

        • Guest2

          I have seen 12Mbps DL in Japan with commercially deployed Wimax…and I am talking about FTP[Tcp traffic and not UDP traffic]

      • Kent

        I am getting 42Mbps down and 11Mbps up with 4G LTE from Netcom (Oslo, Norway). Took me a few minutes to tune in this speed. Had to move the USB modem around the house til I found a place with good coverage (3/5 bars). Speed drops fast til 12-20Mbps when moving into a zone with poor coverage (1/5 bars).

        I wish there were some 4G LTE routers in sales.

  • Rajeev Ranjan

    No technology is good or bad rather it should be categorized in “best fit” manner. This will depend upon the market, users’ adoption & usage pattern, operators’ existing assets, location & operators’ presence/connectivity, fund availability, spectrum availability, regulatory norms, ecosystem. However one general remark, this article compare apple with orange. LTE mentioned speed is theoretical for 20MHz channel BW, ideal propagation characteristics etc. unlike WiMAX (.e version) is the real throughput. WimAX reached at start of chasm but facing challenges to cross it while LTE is still for visionary. Eventually over period of time both will supplement each other.

  • James

    This article is utter garbage. The LTE speeds shown in the graph are laughable. In stockholm a commercial LTE network is already live and the speeds are NO BETTER than WiMAX!

    In Perth, Australia – A recent Mobile WiMAX deployment is obtaining speeds of 40mbps upwards, which is faster than what is currently possible on LTE1.

  • DavidJ

    After reading the article and the graphic, especially the example of the MP3 download… It's fairly obvious that this is a very biased article. The author lost credability.

    "That means you can download about two 5-minute MP3 files every second. Think about that. Sure, it would only take WiMAX about seven minutes to download a single 5-minute MP3 file, which is still fast, but it’s nowhere near the theoretical scale of LTE."

  • Mattias

    Is this article a joke?

    In the world outside US, we download 7.2 Mbits using our 3G networks. We have been doing this for 2 years, and we pay about $20/month for this.

    The reason we want to go for LTE, is that we want more.

  • OFDM Man

    WTF, it's cyclic prefix, not cycle prefix.

  • correctionsofficer

    "That means you can download about two 5-minute MP3 files every second. Think about that. Sure, it would only take WiMAX about seven minutes to download a single 5-minute MP3 file, which is still fast, but it’s nowhere near the theoretical scale of LTE."

    I'm sure you meant to say: "it would only take WiMAX about seven minutes[SECONDS] to download a single 5-minute MP3 file"

    Ironically, i found this article linked as a source from another prominent site. This is sad.

  • Justin

    This is a completely biased article. The download speed as a user said is theoretically 72mbps and LTE is 100 mbps. And if some people in countries who have internet speeds bellow the 50s don’t need to care.

    If both bandwidth is 6 mb both of them will have the same speed..
    Completely biased.

  • LTE

    I was wondering how informative the author was. Isn't WiMax on it's way out of the US?

    • TechieinAR

      No….It’s still being launched, and will almost match LTE soon

  • ulyanov

    The author needs to get his facts right… I am disappointed to find this as a a link from another article of yours 🙁

  • tahhnner

    Lots of people have commented and said what they think. From reading most articles Google has, seems that people from other country’s already have the LTE. People in Norway have it in the major city and it does in fact, have a a way faster signal. But… WiMAX has a faster signal than USA’s 3g we have now. By the time we get a stable LTE service with better coverage than Sprint, its going to be three years away from now. Just get the EVO or whatever phone, and use it for two years. When the contract ends, end your agreement with Sprint or whoever and deal with the slow speed of Verizon until LTE is here. Also the way that the 4g phones get the service is extremely battery consuming and the EVO is considered a 3 O’clock phone. Thats just not going to do if for the average business man. I think they both have potential and when the time comes, two or three years down the road from now, someone might have 5g or something like that. 2010 now and we didn’t even have 3g iPhone in 2005. That just shows 5 years from now we are going to have some amazing stuff. Just think about what Japan probably has right now with there Sony Ericsons….

  • Elevatedsf

    Sprint Wimax speed are already hitting 8.2 in some spots I figure they’ll both be great

  • johnny Kavanagh

    What is their UPLOAD SPEED Elevatedsf = Sprint Wimax ?

  • tension

    great way to explain both the technologies brother……….

  • Guest

    If the writer of this article wants to compare theoretical for theoretical; the wimax 2 upgrade to the currently running wimax has potential download speeds of up to 1 gig per second. 330mbps speeds were demonstrated in Korea last year. With potential transitions into wimax 2 technology begginning possibly as soon as the end of this year, it seems to me that despite europe and their gsm network being more easily adapted to LTE, the real long-term network solution to mobile high speed could just as likely, if not more likely be wimax.

  • Anonymous

    WiMax 2.0 is rated to deliver content at 200Mbps, twice that of LTE. Also, WiMax pipe is fatter than LTE, so it can deliver more content, is upgradeable via software patches, is deisgned to be a WiFi repalcement, and is currently integrated in laptops, whereas LTE is not and has none of these advantages.

  • Guys check out my personal Wimax Vs LTE showdown, Who will win?!?

  • Piehandy

    This my-standard-is-better-than-your-standard debate is utter nonsense.  From a user equipment perspective, a well designed transceiver architecture will be capable of behaving in an agnostic fashion, selecting whichever service within its capability offers the best connectivity irrespective of what standard it operates on.  The only determining factor being: is it possible for the home network to extract money from the user as a result of the data transactions?

  • Bryce

    Actually theoretically WiMax can hit speeds of up to 128Mbps, however, no handset will actually be able to reach either of these theoretical speeds. 

  • Muii

    Wimax, by its open standard, should be the one that win. But sadly, we all know now that it will be dead (not even really born) in few years, because the actors of this sector had choosen LTE. Sad but true.

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