Is this for Real? Sprint to consider LTE?


The battle between WiMAX and LTE is getting very interesting and frankly very confusing – at least to me.

It was just last month Sprint rolled out their WiMAX in a handful of new metropolitan areas including Washington, D.C. According to Financial Times, Sprint is now  considering an LTE strategy that could pave the way to a merger with T-Mobile USA. After spending all those $$$ Billion on WiMAX?

The talk of Sprint switching to an LTE based 4G future gives more credence to the ever circling rumors that T-Mobile USA parent Deutsche Telekom is considering a merger of its #4 T-Mobile USA division with Sprint, which currently is a distant number 3 in the U.S. market. In the past, the differing 3G technologies (CDMA vs. UMTS) made a merger seem unlikely, but if both were to plan ahead for LTE, then the two companies’ futures would be a bit more in step.

Sprint has already launched a hard hitting marketing campaign, pitching its 4G service as delivering download speeds “up to ten times faster than 3G”. The carrier’s WiMAX network covers 43 million people across 33 markets and Sprint expects to have up to 120 million people covered by the end of 2010. Their market includes Rochester, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Merced, Calif., Visalia, Calif., Eugene, Ore., Tri-Cities, Wash., and Yakima, Wash. taking the company’s 4G offering to 43 markets, with plans for Los Angeles, New York and Miami by the end of 2010.

Last month the company also  trumpeted the launch of its first WiMAX-enabled handset, the HTC Evo 4G, which sold so well it marked the largest quantity of a single phone sold in one day ever for Sprint.

In fact it is now understood that HTC can’t deliver Evos fast enough, putting something of a crimp in Sprint’s plans to boost its subscriber base.

In their talks with Financial Times, Sprint admitted, though, that there was a certain “logic” to a Sprint and T-Mobile USA merger, but they declined to discuss any active talks that might be taking place.

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and telezoo.com that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @ awesomize.me

16 Responses to Is this for Real? Sprint to consider LTE?

  1. Yes it seems true. They have already come out with a “4G” HTC phone.

    • This is not really evidence of a merger. 4G is simply a radio interface that plugs into an air interface like HSPA+. You will see all OEM’s inserting 4G radio’s into handsets in preparation for LTE.

  2. Fred Gnuechtel says:

    Interesting indeed. I wonder if part of this is driven by Sprints major corporate customers who may be pushing for coverage outside of the US for their international travelers. Another thought is the future of available towers and the ability to provide coverage as more and more towers move to LTE… As CDMA startes to fade in the long term, one would think that it might be cheaper to go LTE than WiMax going forward where WiMax may not be cost effective.. I do not have the data on operating cost comparrison for WiMax vs LTE but one has to wonder if there is a hybrid business model out there. LTE for voice and data in light usage areas and WiMax in heavy Data use areas. A dual mode phone would provide a lot of flexability as the market starts using more and more bandwidth.

    And as you point out, there is the merger possibility.

    • Elias Shams says:

      Then, why have they been investing $$$ Billions on WiMAX?

      • I have been asking that very same question. Why would Sprint Nextel invest in WiMAX if the industry is moving towards LTE?

        I do understand that there is an upgrade path from CDMA to LTE. That upgrade is not software based but hardware based. So that would mean upgrading the entire backhaul infrastructure. Perhaps that cost compared to the upgrade to WiMAX was simply prohibitive?

  3. Why act so surprised? It’s been in their strategic plan for nearly 20 years.

  4. The conversation about the Sprint — T-Mobile USA merger continues into the weekend. Both companies are a distant #3 (T-Mobile) and #4 (Sprint) in the mobile network operator race. AT&T and Verizon are simply financial Goliath’s and it might be time for #3 and #4 to join forces.

    Also keep in mind that Sprint brings with it Clearwire — which has lots of spectrum. Some industry folks have argued that Clearwire is currently warehousing precious spectrum.

    I do wonder if Sprint would roll into Deutsche Telekom? Or if T-Mobile would roll into Sprint Nextel?

    • Mark Peden says:

      Clearwire, the company behind the deployment of Sprint’s 4G network, is now deploying Huawei base stations. The significance? When LTE becomes both commercially and technically viable, the carrier will be able to transition from WiMAX to LTE without the need to replace the key infrastructure elements in the field (only a line card). Clearwire and Sprint (and their wholesale affiliates) are service providers, allowing them to transition to a better technology the same way AT&T or Verizon will when it makes sound business sense to do so. I love my 4G service…

  5. Bill Atwood says:

    When will there be a LTE network for them to move to? Right now WiMax actually has a usable, growing footprint. I wouldn’t rule it out down the road but for a while it’s WiMax, Clearwire is steadily building out and will have decent nationwide coverage by the end of the year. Regardless of the LTE -vs- WiMax debate, WiMax is here and LTE is still on the launchpad. This might be another BETA -vs- VHS situation but for now, Sprint is selling devices and collecting monthly fees for WiMax.

    The M2M market is thirsty for 4G; speed to market will have an effect. Let’s see how long it takes to get a nationwide LTE network up and running some early adopters will be going WiMax it will be interesting to see how the technology battle plays out.

  6. Simple. It’s what the market wants.

  7. Sprint was a mess always, they want to be ahead always and they mostly screw up because they want to do the change in a week and end up doing it in one year. I have been working on their Wimax project and it was awfull, tight timelines for no reason because there was always some external company delaying the projects. It was a big mess from my point of view because in the grand scheme everyone messed up and I am not sure they actually fixed the WiMAX platform in order to get it working at 100%. Maybe they decided instead of fixing that crap switch to LTE and build a new platform. Hope they changed also the designers and some management 🙂

  8. You’d have to understand the logic of Sprint as a company since its’ merger with United Telephone in 1986. The baby was thrown out with the bath water and replaced with a degreed mindset that continues to have a local mindset. It still acts to a great degree like a “me too” provider. Innovation comes from the competition.

  9. Brian Prows says:

    Good comments, Bill. I agree there’s a lot of PR from the wireless carriers about how LTE will solve all problems.

    You and other group members may want to listen to my podcast interview with David Maquera at Clearwire. He hedged on WiMax vs. LTE too but has some ideas worth hearing. Listen to the podcast or read the summary post on MobileBeyond at:

    http://mobilebeyond.net/clearwire-expands-4g-wireless-wimax-broadband-in-the-u-s/

    Since you also mentioned the M2M market that many think will explode in the next few years, see my post on M2M’s revenue impact on the carriers:

    http://mobilebeyond.net/m2m-wireless-smart-devices-could-boost-mobile-carrier-revenues/

    And if Sprint decides to switch to LTE, they, Clearwire and Comcast will have spent a lot of moola on a dying wireless technology.

  10. pinhead says:

    that 4G phone is sold out online last time i checked and, i am happy about this merger idea. i want to use that chip like t mobile does. i can have more then one phone without more then one number.

  11. Jason says:

    Sprint will not be making the switch to LTE instead they will be having clearwire begin to upgrade to WiMax2.

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