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Sprint Chooses WiMAX to Deploy in 2.5 GHz Spectrum

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Mobile Telephony Feature Article


August 08, 2006

Sprint Chooses WiMAX to Deploy in 2.5 GHz Spectrum

By Robert Liu, TMCnet Executive Editor

Sprint (News - Alert) Nextel, the nation’s largest holder of radio spectrum in the precious 2.5 GHz band, has chosen to deploy Worldwide Interoperability of Microwave Access (WiMAX) as the foundation of its technology platform for the carrier’s mobile broadband Next-Generation Network (NGN) build-out.

At a press conference in New York, Sprint President & CEO Gary D. Forsee explained the 4G network selection process came down to a four key criteria: the market, the cost economics, the ecosystem and the ability to build out a viable business model.
“What a difference we will make,” Forsee declared, alluding to the communications and entertainment services of previous generations.
In his remarks, Forsee said preliminary capital expenditures for the network build-out would total $1 billion in 2007 and $1.5 billion to $2 billion by 2008. The company is targeting the fourth quarter of 2007 for network rollout with the hopes of reaching 100 million people by 2008. Currently, 217 million Americans use wireless phones.
The decision is a clear win for Intel (News - Alert) and its ecosystem of partners that have spent years to develop the 802.16-2004 (Fixed) and 802.16e-2005 (Mobile) WiMAX specifications. WiMAX is a sister technology to the widely deployed WiFi (News - Alert) wireless local area networking standard; however, its usage isn't only restricted to unlicensed radio spectrum.
“This is very positive for the space as a whole,” said Daniel Meron, analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
Among the ecosystem members, Motorola (News - Alert) will offer Sprint Nextel both single- and multimode devices designed to enable seamless mobility for users, while playing a major role in its WiMAX infrastructure roll-out.
“WiMAX is already where other 3G technologies are headed,” said Ed Zander, Motorola’s Chairman and CEO, who joined Forsee during today’s press conference.
In addition, Samsung Telecommunications America will be a primary Mobile WiMAX infrastructure supplier to Sprint Nextel and will also deliver dual-mode devices supporting Mobile WiMAX and CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, designed to enable Sprint's Mobile WiMAX users to utilize Sprint Nextel's existing 3G network resources. And of course, Intel will deliver next-generation WiMAX solutions for Centrino Mobile Technology and next-generation computing devices.
Previously, Sprint Spokesman John Polivka has confirmed the carrier conducted a number of technical trials in order to evaluate various broadband platforms. Sprint tested a UMTS-based technology dubbed TD-CDMA, supplied by a tiny company that’s attracted a lot of attention known as IPWireless. Along the way, Sprint invested a total of $14 million of financing into IPWireless.
Sprint also trialed another broadband technology called Flash-OFDM supplied by Flarion Technologies, now a part of Qualcomm (News - Alert). Through the Nextel division, the company had test trials running in North Carolina until June 2005.
But speculation about WiMAX increased substantially after Intel invested about $600 million into another operator founded by cellular pioneer Craig McCaw called Clearwire earlier this summer. Following the move, analysts like Meron believed the decision to fortify Clearwire, the second-largest holder of radio spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band, heavily influenced Sprint toward the WiMAX camp by creating a logical roaming partner.
“Because without the spectrum, you won't hit the economics,” said Barry West, President of the 4G Mobile Broadband business. West was the Chief Technology Officer at Nextel who will head up the new network as a separate division.
Robert Liu is Executive Editor at TMCnet. Previously, he was Executive Editor at Jupitermedia and has also written for CNN, A&E, Dow Jones and Bloomberg. For more articles, please visit Robert Liu's columnist page.


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