Clearwire, which provides the infrastructure for Sprint’s 4G network here in the States, announced today that it’ll be expanding 4G coverage to the three cities it needs to succeed: New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Finally, we New Yorkers can stop feeling inferior to Boise!
Clearwire’s WiMax network, which Sprint uses as its “4G” network, is the fastest currently available wireless Internet in the country. It’s not likely to retain that crown for too long, as Verizon’s next-generation LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network has the potential to provide superior speed. (T-Mobile’s HSDPA network, which T-Mobile advertises as “4G-like,” is really just a punched-up 3G network. Fast, yes, but limited in potential–and it’s not as fast as WiMax even now.) But at the moment, if you want truly fast Internet access anywhere, you have to both use Sprint and live in one of the markets that hosts WiMax.
Those markets, right now, are mostly limited to smaller cities like Portland, OR, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and Honolulu, with a few large cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Dallas/Ft. Worth thrown in. But, as The Wall Street Journal points out, WiMax is a no-show at the three biggest “media markets,” especially for tech: New York, San Francisco, and (to a lesser extent) Los Angeles. Clearwire today announced that all three will be getting 4G speeds this year: New York first, on November 1st, then Los Angeles on December 1st, and finally San Francisco, sometime in late December.
4G is pretty astounding–if you haven’t had a chance to play with it (and, it seems, most New Yorkers and Californians have not), you’ll be blown away. At best, the speeds rival home broadband. On a 4G smartphone, like the HTC Evo 4G or Samsung Epic 4G, web pages instantly load, video streams immediately in the best available quality, and video chat is clear and quick. That’s the future. Verizon and AT&T are moving slower, though Verizon recently promised a huge 4G rollout in 2011, so next-gen mobile computing is pretty much Sprint-only for now. Expect to see a lot more Evo 4Gs and Epic 4Gs on the streets of New York and San Francisco this year.