Sidecut’s Take on the ‘State of 4G’ for PC World

October 21, 2010

Sidecut Reports was present and accounted for at 4G World in Chicago this week, making the rounds and doing a “state of the state of 4G” type report for PC World, which you can read here. Thanks to the wonderful PC World editing crew for making sure it’s all wheat, no chaff. PS: All the bad photos should also say “Credit: Sidecut Reports.” Like, who else would want to claim ‘em? :-)

Our favorite bits from the show: The Clearwire video that showed the interface getting maxxed out — apparently it couldn’t go fast enough to keep up with the Clearwire 2XLTE (or is it LTE2X?) test speeds of 90 Mbps-plus. Now there’s a network that goes to 11. We also liked T-Mobile getting cheeky about calling its HSPA+ network “a 4G experience.” Time to get some gear and do some T-Mobile testing vs. the competition! Game on, lads!

Clearwire: WiMAX in NYC on Nov. 1, LA Dec. 1, SF by Dec. 31

October 18, 2010

Followers of all things 4G recently have seen, experienced or heard tell of WiMAX services showing up in the promised “big three” cities of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — and now the release dates are official, with the Clearwire press release crossing the wires early Monday announcing that both Clearwire and Sprint will be offering 4G services live in the Big Apple on Nov. 1, in LA on Dec. 1, and in San Francisco sometime before the calendar reads 2011.

For some instant analysis of the import of these market launches, we take you back to our July Clearwire Business Report (which for $9.95 is a still-valuable and value-priced package of info on the nation’s nascent WiMAX network launch). Here’s a small sampling of our opinion then, which we still say matters now:

The final piece of the puzzle are the big markets Clearwire has said it will launch in the remainder of the year — namely New York City, the greater San Francisco Bay/Silicon Valley region, and Los Angeles. When those three markets come online, Clearwire will be front and center in the media and tech hubs of the country, assuring lots more attention — which can either help or harm the company’s attempted entry to the big-time of the wireless service provider marketplace.

While Clearwire’s deployments in multiple geographically diverse markets seems to suggest that the company has its technical network deployment act together, the added scrutiny that will come with on-the-ground presence in both New York and San Francisco will test the company’s marketing and sales operations as never before. Sprint and its media-savvy CEO Dan Hesse will be able to shoulder its share of rollout duties, with a big enough advertising budget to counter at least some of the expected media spend by Verizon. But with lots more prominent geeks and members of the financial and media elite testing, evaluating and offering opinions on the service, it remains to be seen how well Clearwire can handle the inevitable bumps in the road that come with any such mass-market undertaking.

It’s the ultimate risk/reward scenario for Clearwire, one that could see the company reap huge gains in not just subscriber numbers but in perception as pundits will be sure to pronounce the network a “truly national one” when they can safely roam on the same service between SFO and JFK. Launching New York, San Francisco and LA before Verizon gets its own 4G network off the ground will also let Clearwire eliminate any competitive brushstrokes that try to paint the WiMAX network as one that is incomplete, or not available in the places that matter most. For those reasons, Clearwire simply cannot let the big market launches slip, and will score more points the sooner the services go live. Especially with the new WiMAX smartphones in the Sprint stable, which appear to be able to give even the vaunted iPhone empire a run for its money.

Sidecut Reports, along with many other members of the wireless industry, will be at the 4G World show in Chicago this week to hear Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow, among other industry leaders, tell us how the future of 4G is going to roll out. With its “Big 3″ markets now slated for delivery, the 4G showdown between the Clearwire/Sprint WiMAX axis and the Verizon LTE launch seems set. The Super Bowl of 4G? Sounds like it to me.

Is the Pay-as-you-go Cellular Future Already Here?

October 14, 2010

In the course of our discussion yesterday that was part of her column on new cellular pre-paid plans, financial wiz Jean Chatzky asked me a great question: Why would anyone need a 2-year contract plan anymore? As her post (and stories like the one I recently wrote for PC World) points out, with better phones entering the pre-paid arena, the allure of the “discounted” phone that you get with most 2-year contract plans may be rapidly fading.

Though big carriers like AT&T and Verizon love the postpaid plans (because they lock customers in to a predictable revenue stream) you may see the larger providers offer even more flexible pricing plans in the near future, especially as they roll out their newer, faster “4G” networks. While the big boys may not be able to match their upstart competitors on price, at least customers will have more chances to switch between providers when not locked in to a long-term deal. For most everyone who can survive without an iPhone, that’s good news.

Next week at 4G World in Chicago we are scheduled to meet with both Clearwire and MetroPCS, both of which have pre-paid plans already using their respective 4G networks. It will be interesting to hear from the companies how the 4G prepaid plans are doing so far, and if there are more in the works for the near future.

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