Sprint Goes to WiMAX for New Broadband Network

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It’s official: Sprint Nextel ended more than one year of speculation about its choice for a fourth-generation wireless technology, announcing Tuesday that it will build and launch mobile WiMAX using a bank of 2.5-gigahertz spectrum nationwide.

In all, Sprint will invest $1 billion in 2007 and $1.5 billion-$2 billion in 2008 to build the network. Plans are to start market trials by the end of 2007, with full deployment reaching as many as 100 million U.S. residents in 2008.

Sprint had been testing several technology options it was considering, but it settled on mobile WiMAX using the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ 802.16e-2005 technology standard. It will now work with Intel, Motorola and Samsung Telecommunications America to develop a nationwide mobile WiMAX network, as well as the chip sets needed to power portable multimedia devices.

Those consumer devices will tune to Sprint’s 2.5-GHz spectrum, which reaches 85% of the households in the top 100 major U.S. markets.

“This announcement is another step in Sprint Nextel's broadband-mobility leadership, and we expect to establish a first-to-market next-generation network advantage,” Sprint CEO Gary Forsee said. “We will have a unique broadband capability for meeting the growing access and mobile Internet needs of businesses, governments and consumers when and where they want."

Sprint will continue to develop and invest in its broadband cellular Evolution-Data Optimized network, which supports its Power Vision video and multimedia content services. Motorola and Samsung will also be developing dual-mode mobile handsets that can tune to the EV-DO and mobile WiMAX networks.

But Sprint isn’t alone in eyeing broadband-wireless services outside of its existing cellular network. Verizon Wireless is moving along with its plans for a mobile-TV and video-broadcast network based on Qualcomm’s MediaFLO network and spectrum, with plans to begin launching service by the end of this year. And similar networks are in the works for Crown Castle International’s Modeo subsidiary and HiWire, a start-up backed by several cable-television veterans.

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