Sprint Nextel plans to deploy the first fourth-generation (4G) nationwide broadband mobile network in the U.S. Sprint Nextel will base the new network on the mobile version of WiMAX, IEEE 802.16e-2005. Market trials are scheduled for the end of 2007, and a full scale rollout for 2008.
The move is a combination of opportunity and necessity. Sprint Nextel has a singularly thick portfolio of rights to 2.5 GHz spectrum that will allow it to cover 85 percent of the households in the top 100 U.S. markets.
The company's 3G network is in fact two networks, one each from its constituent elements. Motorola and Samsung have committed to create multimode devices that will support services on the 4G network Sprint Nextel will build, as well as the 3G (CDMA and EV-DO) networks now in place.
Sprint will maintain its 3G networks, first to provide all broadband service in areas outside the planned 4G coverage, but also to provide voice service.
WiMAX promoter Intel will deliver WiMAX solutions for Centrino Mobile Technology and next-generation computing devices, and will help promote the technology.
Larry Swasey, senior analyst for Visant Strategies, said, "The choice of 802.16e by Sprint Nextel is a large one and it enables the carrier to become a showcase for the next generation of IP-based, high-speed mobile wireless in a voice saturated market in need of more data revenues. Data revenues have become the focus of most of the larger operators at this time, and Sprint/Nextel as usual has jumped in the water earlier rather than later."
"This," he added, "does not mean that a number of the other variants, such as the Qualcomm Flash-OFDM solution acquired when the company bought Flarion, and standards such as TD-SCDMA, UMTS-TDD, UMTS LTE, WiBro and others, will not do well during the next years as well. We still have a large audience worldwide of mobile and fixed operators that are looking at all of these technologies and many, if not most, have been deployed commercially in either a fixed or mobile setting by this point."
Sprint Nextel said it expects to invest $1 billion in 2007 and between $1.5 billion and $2 billion in 2008 on its 4G mobile broadband network.