A new Yankee Group report identifying the early leaders and followers among 4G wireless operators emphasizes that 3G wireless technology and expertise won't automatically lead to 4G dominance.
Next-generation strategies must be different than 3G strategies, targeting a market, a specific solution or a competitive point in order to build brand awareness among users, particularly because almost 75% of users don't know what 4G is and deployments will be spotty for a while.
Addressing the three 4G technologies - LTE, Wimax and HSPA+ - Yankee said LTE and HSPA+ will win the market by 2011, even though Wimax was rolled out earlier.
Still, the report cites Wimax as a strong machine-to-machine (M2M) services and smart grid technology contender, and a fixed broadband technology especially in developing countries.
Yankee Distinguished Research Fellow Chris Nicoll drew his conclusions from a combination of Yankee Group consumer surveys, vendor discussions and Rethink Technology surveys of nearly 200 operators worldwide. The report categorizes operators into leaders, followers and those "on the bubble," depending on their business decisions and execution in the next six-to-12 months.
Yankee's picks for early 4G leadership in three global areas are as follows:
Asia-Pacific: Japan's KDDI and South Korea's KT -- for their Wimax and LTE deployments.
US: Clearwire for its Wimax rollout, MetroPCS for LTE and T-Mobile for HSPA+.
So where's Verizon Wireless? Nicoll ranks Verizon Wireless in his "on the bubble" category because it is lagging the leaders in its 4G LTE deployment, even though it has announced an aggressive rollout plan for the rest of this year.
Nicoll sees Verizon moving into a leadership position in the US by the end of 2011, however, even though it will trail Clearwire until 2012. Joining Verizon "on the bubble" are Sprint, LightSquared, China Mobile and Telefonica.