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Sprint plans 2012 LTE launch

Fri, 10/07/2011 - 8:05am
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Sprint is deploying LTE in its 1.9 GHz spectrum and will launch its first commercial markets in mid-2012, the company announced today.

The LTE deployment will bring Sprint into the technological mainstream and free itself of its dependency on Clearwire's WiMAX network for its mobile broadband services.

Rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless both offer LTE, and the technology is entrenched as the leading standard for next-generation wireless services.

Construction of the network has already begun and is expected to be largely complete by the end of 2013.

Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson have been hired to supply and build the network, and work is underway on 22,000 cell sites, a little more than half the total network upgrade.

Sprint will sell Clearwire WiMAX devices through next year but will eventually stop selling them, said network operations chief Steve Elfman. The news sent Clearwire's stock down nearly 15 percent in morning trading.

Sprint is working with Qualcomm on devices for the new network.

The network plan includes hosting LightSquared's 1.6 GHz spectrum for LTE, but it is not clear whether LightSquared will get FCC clearance for its network.

Sprint is also moving aggressively to manage rising data demands, rolling out Wi-Fi offloading technology this quarter in addition to its existing content, applications and video optimization technology. The network management techniques are expected to reduce traffic on Sprint's network by 20 percent.

Sprint is phasing out its customer-losing iDEN network in favor of a CDMA-based push-to-talk service that was launched last week. That transition will be complete by 2013, as previously stated. The consolidation of the iDEN services and its CDMA network will halve Sprint's cost per gigabyte and cost per voice minute.

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