Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sprint Nextel Plans 4G Rollout in 2008

Sprint Nextel plans to leverage its extensive 2.5 GHz Broadband Radio Service (BRS) spectrum holdings with a major rollout of 4G services in 2008, said Len Lauer, COO of Sprint Nextel, speaking at WCA conference in San Jose. Its market strategy will be to deploy the network quickly in top 100 U.S. markets, giving it as much as a two-year lead over its major wireless competitors. Sprint Nextel is currently evaluating a number of different wireless technologies and network architectures, including multicarrier DO (MCDO), f-OFDM, WiMAX, HSPA, TD-CDMA and 3G LTE. Discussions and trials are underway with a number potential suppliers.

Lauer outlined a number of key requirements for the new network. Ideally, it would like be an architecture that is also deployed globally, especially in Europe. The company does not want to become a wireless island. Technologies must be part of a larger ecosystem. Base stations and client devices must be delivered at competitive price. And the network must be able of offer new services, content, experiences that provide a true mobile alternative to home DSL and cable connections. Sprint Nextel initially is looking for 2 to 3 Mbps per user.

In the meantime, Sprint Nextel is gaining momentum with its EVDO network, which currently delivers downlink speeds of 400-700 kbps and is available in over 200 markets across the country. An upgrade to the EVDO network is planned for 2007/8. Lauer also demonstrated the company's currently mobile TV application. As the subscriber numbers for this multimedia service climb, Sprint Nextel may be in the position of needing more capacity before its 4G rollout is ready. The company is evaluating QUALCOMM's MediaFLO and DVB solutions to handle such a contingency.

As for the joint venture with the cable operators, Lauer said Sprint Nextel already is the largest supplier of VoIP services to MSOs. The first new services from the joint venture are expected to debut in mid-year.

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