Sources in the telecommunications world have been telling me that Sprint is testing Long Term Evolution, or LTE, equipment, which seems a bit odd given Sprint’s cheerleading for WiMAX and 51 percent stake in Clearwire, which is building out a nationwide WiMAX network. I asked Sprint if it was evaluating LTE equipment, and spokesman John Polivka emailed me the following:
You know of our commitment to WiMAX as our 4G play, the only next gen technology commercially offered. … As a prudent Technology Development organization we are always collecting competitive information about various technologies/equipment to monitor and assess the competitive landscape and any potential impacts to Sprint’s plans.
It’s not a no. However, it’s also not a confession that Sprint plans to dump WiMAX and follow its rival carriers to an LTE network.
That being said, Sprint does face some hard choices about its future without its own 4G network, and it may also be leaving a door open on an LTE future with Clearwire. After Clearwire and Sprint closed their $3.2 billion spectrum deal, Clearwire CEO Ben Wolff made a point of noting that the Clear WiMAX network would use equipment that could be transitioned to an LTE network later on. Given the enthusiasm lately around LTE, both Sprint and Clearwire are likely feeling some heat.