In 2011 it seemed clear that Verizon Wireless was leading the 4G race introducing their version of 4G LTE. The big question that is arising at the start of 2012 is what other players will begin to compete in this race? And how will other carriers deliver on 4G network and devices?

Verizon Wireless started off strong last year with a powerful platform called LTE. Verizon’s LTE software includes approximately 10 equipped wireless devices, mobile hotspots, and tablet PCs. Although Verizon’s aggressive network upgrade had some unforeseen weaknesses. For several months Verizon began to experience technical problems with its 4G network. This caused several service blackouts and complaints about the network. Brian Higgins the Vice President of Product Development at Verizon Wireless state “one thing we have learned being of the first carriers to offer these 4G services is: yes there will be a couple of issues and yes we will earn from these issues.” With all new technology there will always be growing pains. It happens with a variety of services and networks; clearly the first carrier to launch a new service will be criticized for failures and hiccups in the process.

By the end of last year the AT&T and T-Mobile merger failed which some analysts say may have an effect on both companies.  Noted in a previous Strategic Sourceror blog, AT&T’s strategic sourcing of wireless technologies will benefit and affect other companies. AT&T’s decision to abandon the T-Mobile deal may lead to AT&T’s ability to focus on new services and increase the efficiency and speed of their 3G and 4G networks.

To be able to gain back the $4 billion hit for AT&T’s failure to acquire T-Mobile, AT&T must focus on their 4G network.  AT&T first deployed two different types of networks to provide faster speeds. They first focused on updated their 3G network before moving onto 4G. This updated network did not deliver to their customers as they have hoped. AT&T promoted network speeds that weren’t quite there. AT&T’s 4G network currently covers less than half the number of customers as Verizon’s network as said in an article in E-Commerce Times by Rob Spiegel. For AT&T to continue to have a competitive edge against Verizon in the LTE arena, they must rethink their strategies.

As far as the other wireless contenders, Sprint and T-Mobile they have both been dabbling in the 4G arena. Sprint was actually the first carrier to introduce their version of a high performance network in 2010, the EVO 4G was equipped with WiMax rather than LTE in 2010. This network platform did not succeed as well as others because there was not enough maturity in the market for network speeds and devices. Sprint will continue to support their WiMax devices through the end of 2012. Sprint’s CEO, Dan Heese, said that Sprint’s upcoming LTE roll out would cover 125 million people by the end of 2012, and approximately 250 million people by the end of 2012. Sprint spent a lot of 2011 focusing on an expansion of 4G products and released the iPhone to keep up with competitors. Sprint currently offers an unlimited data service plan which gives them an advantage over competitors. Although, as Sprint begins to focus on 4G they may lose that advantage due to the heavy data users and a shortage of wireless airwaves.

T-Mobile had been holding out on adapting to 4G mainly because it lacked resources that many of their competitors have. Officials from T-Mobile believe that LTE just isn’t ready and fully mature and that the quality of some devices has not been great. T-Mobile recently has announced the Galaxy Blaze 4G considered their “4G” or HSPA+ network. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network services are available in nearly 50 major cities. This network offers 4G speeds and improved support and performance.

The question consumers have is: who will begin to lead this 4G race? How will network and wireless devices advance in 2012? While the network speeds and devices have begun to gain focus and interest already in 2012 it will be quite interesting how this 4G race will play out.

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Danielle Rosato

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