Sprint executives sat in a 4G roundtable at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Spain, funny thing is there wasn’t much discussion about WiMax the version of 4G that they are using right now, but rather whether or not they will switch over to LTE.
We’ve been reporting on what looks like the demise of WiMax for weeks. Late last year Clearwire, for all intents and purposes, finished their 2010 build out and ran out of money. They scrambled to sell some of their debt notes, promised a restructuring of their work force and are in talks with T-Mobile about a spectrum purchase.
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To add to that, Clearwire’s chairman of the board, and cellular Pioneer, Craig O McCaw stepped down from his position late last year. In addition Sprint executive’s on Clearwire’s Board of Directors stepped down from their positions on Clearwire’s board. It’s unclear whether this was a signal that Sprint is considering plans beyond the WiMax business or they are going to buy Clearwire out totally.
At during that discussion Sprint’s Senior Vice President of Network, Bob Azzi, spoke more on their $4-5 billion dollar “Network Vision” an effort spearheaded with partners Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. Although at that time we thought this may be an effort to beef up it’s WiMax network, we’ve seen that the three network partners actually specialize more on the LTE side of things. Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson are actually partners with Verizon on 4G/LTE as well.
Azzi said that they are “looking at the trends and migration track toward LTE”. Azzi went onto say that they would be evaluating LTE over the next 4 to 6 months and that if they went that direction it would be complimentary to it’s current WiMax network. Around the same time as the initial Network Vision announcements Sprint announced that they would also be phasing out its IDEN network obtained with the Nextel merger. The 800mhz spectrum used with IDEN is compatible with LTE as well.
Yesterday a Global TD-LTE initiative was announced to adopt LTE technology as 4G globally. It’s likely that Azzi’s comments were a reflection of this. This global initiative, according to Bahrti Airtel’s chairman Suni Mittal, “may put the final nail into WiMax’s coffin”
Source: TDG MWC Coverage Team and GSMA