There has been a lot of talk about how the United States lags behind the rest of the world in broadband speeds to our homes, but what about on the mobile front?  With more and more mobile devices coming to market every day, is the U.S.A. ready to handle the increasing demands for broadband connectivity on the go?

Possibly down the road, but not right now, that’s for sure.

clearwire_logo2The WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology, also known as 4G, delivers speeds up to 10 Mbps over the IEEE 802.16 band, a considerable boost over 3G’s 14.0 Mbit/s downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s uplink. The problem is that it is rolling out across the United States as we speak, but compared to other countries, we are seriously behind.  According to a recent report from the WiMax Forum, the technology now serves 620 million people (POPS) in 147 countries, but when broken down by region, you see North America is the laggard in this deployment.

  • Asia Pacific leads with more than 237 million POPS and 100 network deployments.
  • Central/Latin America has reached 113 million POPs and 109 deployments.
  • Africa/Middle East covers more than 108 million POPs with 142 deployments.
  • Europe covers 115 million people with 153 deployments.
  • North American coverage has increased to 47 million POPS with 51 deployments.

Our deployments of the system are where we are falling behind, and while Clearwire, the biggest company behind the deployment, has stated that it feels it will have coverage for 120 million people by the end of 2010, that is still a far cry from covering the whole country.  By the end of this year, the global coverage is expected to be at 800 million, and up to 1 billion by the end of 2011 when a WiMAX competitor technology is due to just begin rolling out.

“Clearwire plans to continue rolling out our 4G network to additional markets in 2010 with the launch of service in several large metro areas, including New York, Houston and the San Francisco Bay area – ultimately reaching up to 120 million people by the end of 2010,” said Ali Tabassi, senior vice president of global ecosystem and standards for Clearwire Corporation and WiMAX Forum Board member. “The expansion of our footprint will help meet the pent up demand for true mobile broadband in the U.S. and allow us to continue to serve as a global resource for best practices in 4G network development around the world.”

Clearwire has received backing from the likes of Intel and Google, but it still can’t roll the technology out quickly enough to keep up with the rest of the world, nor the demand for mobile bandwidth. More and more devices are switching to 4G connectivity due to the increased speeds it offers, plus the fact our 3G networks simply can’t keep up with the number of devices out there that use it.  Just ask any iPhone user how they feel about their 3G connection, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hopefully the promises for the end of this year will be fulfilled, but even with those, it still feels like we are lagging behind yet again for a country that is supposed to be a technological leader.