The technology most sought after by broadband wireless users is called Long Term Evolution, simply referred to as LTE. It is the fastest of the fourth-generation, or 4G, transmission frameworks, and the common wisdom assumes that the first carrier to build a nationwide LTE network would clean up.
The company that is in the best position to prove that assumption true is Mr. "Can you hear me now?": Verizon Communications
Verizon's closest rival in terms of LTE coverage is -- no surprise -- AT&T
But Verizon's closest 4G rival may not be so obvious. It's the much put-upon Sprint Nextel
Unfortunately for Sprint, which was the first national carrier to deploy any kind of 4G coverage, it chose the wrong technology. The boost it got from getting there first has evaporated, and it now it finds itself in a desperate struggle to build an LTE network.
That's a feeling that Clearwire can now appreciate, as it sees its survival hinging on whether it can get the $600 million it needs to upgrade its network to LTE. There hasn't been anybody throwing money at Clearwire yet, but the company has entered into an agreement with China Mobile
So it looks like the LTE network king in the U.S. is currently Verizon, and its position is getting stronger. It will be expanding its network to 178 markets by the end of this year and plans to have it completed by 2013. Clearly, AT&T and the others will have a lot of catching up to do ... unless they're counting on LTE, like WiMAX, to also go "toxic" in the near future.
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Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. The Motley Fool owns shares of China Mobile. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of China Mobile and AT&T. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.