The 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.
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!