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Sprint to detail 4G plans at October 'strategy update'

Tue, 08/30/2011 - 8:20am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The guessing game over Sprint's 4G strategy could be put to an end as early as October.

The company sent out media invitations Monday to a "strategy update" with its senior management in New York City on Oct. 7. No further details were disclosed, but Sprint is expected to provide long-awaited details on its mobile broadband plans.

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse first disclosed plans for the October briefing during the company's second-quarter earnings call. He said the company planned to describe its network upgrade plans in more detail but hadn't finalized its strategy. The invitations to the briefing make the event official.

"The additional time between now and then will allow us to complete more pieces to our plan," he said during the earnings call in July.

Though it seems likely the company will stick to its mobile broadband plans during the briefing, rumors are circulating that the company may instead use the event to debut the iPhone.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Sprint would land a new version of the iPhone and the current iPhone 4 in mid-October, but the reports have yet to be confirmed by Apple or Sprint.

Sprint's 4G strategy is anything but clear cut. The operator has a majority stake in Clearwire and resells its WiMAX service under its own brand but has a troubled relationship with the financially strapped mobile broadband provider.

Sprint added another 4G flavor to the mix late last month when it signed a $9 billion deal to build and operate LightSquared's LTE network. The contract allows Sprint to resell LightSquared's LTE service, but the arrangement is void if the FCC blocks LightSquared from moving ahead with its plans over problems with GPS interference.

Sprint could push ahead with Clearwire – which plans to deploy LTE if it can get an extra $600 million in funding – or it could cross its fingers that LightSquared's plans will pass regulatory muster. Or it could go with some combination of both.

The operator also could deepen its relationship with Clearwire. Its network modernization plan calls for equipment that supports both its own spectrum and the 2.5 GHz band used for Clearwire's WiMAX service. Vendors have already begun installing the new hardware.

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