T-Mobile snubs WiMax, sticks with LTE for 4G services

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Speaking to BusinessWeek, T-Mobile’s chief network officer Neville Wray says the company is still looking to LTE technology as its preferred path towards offering 4G services, and plans to stick with its current HSPA+ (aka “3.5G”) network until LTE services have matured. Ray described 4G WiMax service—currently being rolled out by Clearwire—as a “niche play” in the 4G market.

The comments would seem to put the kibosh on speculation that T-Mobile might be looking to buy into Clearwire for an ownership stake in its WiMax network, or that that company might merge with Sprint and adopt WiMax as its 4G strategy. At the same time, Ray apparently wouldn’t rule out an agreement with Clearwire to use WiMax…and it’s also worth noting that Clearwire recently started LTE technology trials on its WiMax network.

Clearwire is currently facing a financial crisis: the company needs more funding to continue rolling out its WiMax-based 4G network, but partners Sprint and Comcast have both said they don’t plan to make additional investments in Clearwire. Clearwire is there probably looking for new parties to buy into the company so the WiMax rollout can continue.

Three Sprint executives—including Sprint CEO Dan Hesse—resigned from Clearwire’s board this week. The stated reason for the resignation was an “abundance of caution” owing to recent development in antitrust law. Sprint retains four seats on Clearwire’s 13-member board, along with the right to appoint up to seven members. Some industry watchers speculate one motivation for the move may have been to free up space on the board for new investors in Clearwire.