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Clearwire edges toward 100Mbps wireless broadband

Clearwire, which is building a nationwide wireless network, is pushing the envelope in wireless speeds.

Michael Sievert, Clearwire's chief commercial officer, says that a trial wireless broadband network in Phoenix is close to delivering 100Mbps download speeds.
Marguerite Reardon/CNET

CHICAGO--Clearwire is getting near 100Mbps downloads on its LTE-based trial wireless network in Phoenix, a company executive said today.

During a keynote presentation here at the 4G World trade show, Michael Sievert, Clearwire's chief commercial officer, shared initial speed test results on a trial network the company has built in Phoenix to test the next generation of a 4G technology called LTE, or Long Term Evolution. Clearwire announced it was testing LTE network technology in Phoenix in August.

According to Sievert, the company has clocked download speeds at 50 megabits per second using 10MHz channels for up and down speeds. When using 20MHz channels, the speeds go up to 90Mbps. These speeds are significantly faster than the 3Mbps to 6Mbps average download speeds the company currently gets on its commercial network, which uses a competing technology called WiMax.

What's more, the trial LTE network is also faster than other networks using similar technology. Verizon Wireless, which is expected to launch its LTE network by the end of the year, has said it expects real-world download speeds of between 8Mbps and 12Mbps.

The ultra-fast speeds on the Clearwire LTE trial network are somewhat exaggerated due to the fact that these networks have no other users loading the network, which can affect performance. But the results still clearly show the evolution in wireless broadband, where speeds are constantly increasing.

Aside from the demonstrated faster speeds, the trial in Phoenix also sheds light on Clearwire's future plans, which increasingly look tied to LTE rather than WiMax, the technology that Clearwire is using currently to build its network.

Sievert said that company hasn't made any official plans to deploy the LTE technology. Instead, he emphasized a familiar company sentiment, which is that Clearwire is technology agnostic.

As an industry, "we need to get away from the technology alphabet soup," he said. "Customers don't care what the underlying technology is. They just want you to give them the speeds they want. As an industry we need to spark their imagination and show what will happen as wireless moves from narrow band to wide band."

Sievert said that its Phoenix network demonstrates true broadband speeds for wireless, which he said will offer new services to wireless consumers. Among these new services is high-quality, high-definition video.

"There is an amazing potential in wireless broadband," he said. "And it's just beginning. There's great promise for the future and it's more exciting than ever."

Clearwire executives have been saying for months that the company is open to using other technologies to achieve its wireless broadband goals.

"We won't fight a technology war," Clearwire's CEO said at the CTIA trade show last spring. "We can sunset one technology if we need to. We provide customers what they want: access to the network at a low cost. And our network is designed so we can add LTE if we need to."

Earlier this week, Clearwire announced full 4G service for New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The company now offers service in 55 markets. Its resellers and partners, Sprint, Comcast, and Time Warner, will also be reselling the service in many of these markets. The company expects to cover about 120 million people in the U.S. with its network by the end of 2010.