Feature Article

March 14, 2012

Cricket Communications to Buy LTE Capacity from Clearwire

Cricket Communications will buy wholesale Long Term Evolution capacity from Clearwire. The five-year deal allows Cricket to supplement its own facilities-based LTE network.

Cricket currently plans to deploy LTE across approximately two thirds of its current network footprint over the next two to three years and to cover up to approximately 25 million potential customers with LTE network technology by the end of 2012. 

Clearwire expects to begin its LTE network deployment by the end of March 2012 and to have at 5,000 LTE cellular sites active by the middle of 2013. 

The deal is not unexpected. Few mobile service providers can afford to build everywhere, all at once. That's why roaming agreements exist. Also, right now, Clearwire is the only mobile service provider with a "wholesale-only" focus, making it an ideal partner, in terms of avoiding channel conflict. 

Up to this point, Sprint had been the only other service provider committed to using Clearwire Long Term Evolution facilities. In both cases, the firms are augmenting their own facilities. In some cases the objective is to ensure adequate bandwidth in high-demand markets. 

U.S. service providers have more incentive than most to offer LTE services now. At the end of September 2011, Verizon Wireless had more than 3.1 million LTE subscribers, representing 60 percent of the worldwide total. That is one sign that U.S. mobile service providers are adopting LTE fast.

According toTeleGeography, there were 39 LTE networks live worldwide by mid-November 2011, more than half of which were launched in 2011.

The number of LTE deployments will rise rapidly over the next two to three years, given that about 170 operators are already running trials, or have expressed interest in LTE.

TeleGeography suggests that there will be more than 400 million LTE mobile subscribers by the end of 2016, up from just nine million at the end of 2011. 

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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