Sprint Dropping WiMax for LTE?

As LTE continues to gain momentum around the world, and especially in the U.S., it looks like Sprint might be switching 4G gears. During a roundtable discussion at Mobile World Congress, Sprint’s senior vice president of networks, Bob Azzi, said that the carrier will watch how many of its customers migrate from EV-DO to mobile WiMAX over the next 4 to 6 months and then evaluate the best way to use its existing spectrum. As reported by FierceWireless, Sprint could decide to deploy LTE, potentially leaving Mobile WiMax for dead.

In our testing Sprint’s Mobile WiMax 4G network (powered by Clear) has been faster than the HSPA+ networks offered by AT&T and T-Mobile thus far (especially the former). However, WiMax still gets smoked by Verizon’s 4G LTE data cards–especially on the uplodas–and LTE phones like the HTC Thunderbolt should be launching soon. According to GigaOm, switching from Mobile WiMax to LTE involves a card swap as opposed to reconfiguring all the gear at the base stations or its tower network. Somehow we don’t think it’s that simple, and it’s hard to say whether Sprint’s current swath of 4G spectrum (in the 2.5 GHz band) is really optimized for LTE.

Even if switching from LTE to Moible WiMax was as easy as flicking a switch, the WiMax radios inside today’s phones simply wouldn’t be compatible with an LTE network. Plenty of shoppers might think twice about about buying a Mobile WiMax handset if they thought it was a dead-end technology

On the other hand, Sprint might not have a choice but to change course given the strength of the LTE ecosystem, and we presume the carrier will figure out a migration path that doesn’t leave its customers out in the cold. The decision will take months to make, but the actual transition will take years.

via FierceWireless and GigaOm

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Michael Says:

    I think that 2.5 GHz is supposed to be good for LTE implementation because that spectrum allows faster speeds than 700 MHz, and many European telecoms are planning on deploying LTE at 2.5 GHz or have already done so. Clear/Sprint is testing LTE in Phoenix and I read that those test speeds far exceed those on Verizon’s LTE, averaging 50 Mbs down (peak tests of about 90 GHz down, 30 GHz up); this was attributed to the spectral differences compared to 700 MHz. Ericsson reported similar LTE speeds at 2.5-2.6 GHz in Scandanvia. 700 MHz does have certain advantages over 2.5 GHz, however, such as going through third walls and requiring fewer base stations.

  2. Mike Freeman Says:

    Sprint never has and never will know what it’s doing. The Nextel disaster proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt. Hesse has no clue to where he’s taking Sprint. The only thing that’s allowed Sprint to survive is their sheer fortitude and ability to deal with losses of millions of customers and billions of dollars.

    LTE is going to be a fractured dysfunctional family of incompatible frequency standards just like 3G is .
    Wimax had the lead but Sprint as usual, blew it.

  3. Dominik Says:

    As a Sprint customer I hope that the move is made to LTE.

    I’m all for competition however being the only company in the states with Wimax will hurt the customers in the long run.

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