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4G World: Clearwire CEO describes the future WiMax smartphone


New Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) CEO Bill Morrow believes the iPhone is on the wrong network. Though the iconic Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) device has been enormously successful on AT&T’s (NYSE:T), Morrow said during his keynote at 4G World in Chicago that only a 4G network like Clearwire’s could unlock its true potential.

To demonstrate his thesis, Morrow showed video clips of two iPhones mounted side by side in a moving car, each accessing Google Earth and streamed videos. One iPhone was linked to AT&T’s high-speed packet access network, while the other connected to Clearwire’s WiMax network via the iPhone’s WiFi connection and a Clearwire 4G router. Though the AT& -linked iPhone was getting speeds as high as 1.1 Mb/s, the multimegabit speeds coming from WiMax showed a clear difference—Google Earth’s flow was more choppy, and while the 3G link supported video streams just as well as the WiMax connection, its lower bandwidth and higher latency caused a much longer buffering delay.

“I don’t want to talk badly about any of our competitors, but the reality is the 3G network is not built for the broadband data speeds we’re talking about,” Morrow said. Wireline broadband has caused customers to become impatient with delays in accessing content, and after a few seconds of waiting, customers often give up accessing a site, multimedia file or application, he said. Morrow cited studies showing that half of the data usage on the iPhone came from its WiFi connection, not its 3G connection.  “Are we really enabling the full power of the mobile Internet if we’re restricting ourselves to the 3G network?” he asked rhetorically.

Those are fighting words from Clearwire at a show where the content has expanded from focusing solely on WiMax to 4G and at which AT&T’s Kris Rinne delivered the opening keynote. But Morrow said he was trying prove a larger point: While WiMax and 4G are most often associated with mobile broadband applications such as laptop connectivity and home Internet, the applications of the 3G world are just as applicable to 4G. In particular, he said, smartphones have quickly outgrown the 3G network.

Clearwire plans to fully support smartphones as well as the new generation of connected laptops, netbooks and Internet tablets, and the new generation of 4G smartphones will be much more powerful than even the fully featured devices we have today, Morrow said. He predicted that the WiMax smartphone will have features resembling the specs of a computer: a 1 GHz processor, high-definition video, 3D imaging and 64 gigabytes of internal memory. In addition, he said, that smartphone will have the connectivity and sensing equipment to set it apart from computing devices: voice and object recognition and mobile VoIP.

Most significantly, though, the 4G smartphone will be able to leverage the enormous power of a true broadband connection, allowing it to do things that no smartphone can do today, Morrow said. For example, the WiMax connection will allow cloud computing to enter the mobile market. Applications will no longer have to be scaled down to meet the specifications of the smartphone. Rather, robust applications will sit on the network, and intelligent clients will reside on the phone. The multimegabit capacity and low latency of WiMax will allow them to work seamlessly together, Morrow said.


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