Sprint To Detail 4G Strategy: WiMAX?


Sprint plans to announce the details of its much-anticipated 4G network in a conference later today, and the company has been trialling various technologies including WiMAX, Qualcomm-backed technologies, and IP Wireless’ technology, among others.

Some are saying that Sprint has chosen WiMAX, partly to avoid the Qualcomm royalty ecosystem, where Qualcomm takes a percentage of every handset sold. We called Sprint and they wouldn’t comment on the technology choice, but we’ll bring you more details later in the day.

If it’s true, that’s another public strike against Qualcomm’s high fees, which seem to be riling carriers in developing markets. Though, Qualcomm also has a good business with Sprint for its CDMA network, and Sprint is even upgrading its high speed EVDO service earlier than expected by the end of this year. It’s not too big a suprise that Sprint would not want to keep shelling out money to the same company if there are other comparable technologies available.

If Sprint has chosen WiMAX it would be a major win for Intel and the like that have been trying to push the technology by massive investment. If a company like Nortel could manage to win the contract it would do wonders for its attempts at a turn around.

Sprint has been mulling over its technology choice for awhile. Last January Sprint’s COO Len Lauer made a speech at CTIA laying out Sprint’s plans for its 4G network, which will run over 2.5 GHz spectrum that the company owns. At that time Lauer said the company will use its partnership with cable for exclusive media content, and will transition its media and mobile TV services to the new network when the 3G network gets too crowded. He said the network could launch as soon as 2008 and the entertainment services might be sold for a monthly charge of between $20 and $40 a month.

In an interview later that day he told me the 4G network would likely cost upwards of $800 million to build — the fee that Qualcomm has said it is spending on its MediaFLO network in the U.S. With Sprint reporting pretty tepid earnings last week, does the company really need to be spending that much on an experimental technology that has yet to prove itself in the market?


P. Singh

Let us analyze this further. Sprint wants to deploy Mobile WiMax which means availability of low power, low price chips that can be used to build handsets. Intel doesn’t even have inexpensive fixed WiMax chip out yet and we are close to 2007. This means early economical chips will be available realistically from Intel no sooner than 2008. Is it really an Intel win? How would they have anyworthwhile service in 2008?

Someone is being unrealistic in the readiness of technology and speed at which a giant like Sprint can implement a new technology in a mature network.

Jesse Kopelman

$800M to cover 100M people, I guess if you are only going to build major cities . . . I’m pretty sure that will not make the cut in their agreement with the FCC. Maybe they are expecting to get a lot of free stuff from vendors, just like Sprint did in the early days of CDMA and Nextel did all through their history? Could be an interesting story here.

Jacob Varghese

Will the voice be carried over Wimax too or just data?

is this a grand-scale voip over wifi plan?

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