Light Reading

Sprint RFP May Include LTE

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

AMSTERDAM -- LTE World Summit -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has issued a "next generation network" request for proposal (RFP) for its mobile network in the US, and Long Term Evolution (LTE) has emerged as a potential technology choice.

"There's nothing that prevents us from... moving to LTE," said Kevin Packingham, senior VP of product and technology development at Sprint, speaking at the LTE event here. "We're doing a technology evaluation and making a decision on our core network and how we want to evolve that going forward."

By "core" network, he meant Sprint's CDMA network, which Packingham clarified with Light Reading Mobile on the sidelines of the event. The technology evaluation, which Packingham described as a "next generation network RFP," is for the CDMA networks Sprint operates in 800MHz and 1900MHz spectrum.

Packingham's comments could be the clearest signal to date from the third-largest US mobile operator that it may migrate from CDMA to LTE. Of course, no decision has been made, but Sprint is definitely open to it. (See CTIA 2010: Hesse – LTE Will Be Bigger But We Are First.)

This new technology evaluation does not mean Sprint is ready to wave goodbye to WiMax any time soon. "We don't see WiMax and LTE as being mutually exclusive," he said.

Packingham would not reveal which vendors were invited to participate in the RFP, noting only that, "Everyone who could respond was invited."

Vendor candidates for this RFP would include Sprint's current CDMA suppliers, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT). Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) are possibilities as well.

If Sprint makes the leap to LTE, the move would follow Verizon Wireless and MetroPCS Inc. (NYSE: PCS) down a well-trod technology path from CDMA to LTE. (See MetroPCS Chooses LTE for 4G Wireless Network and Verizon Goes LTE.)

The revelation of Sprint's interest in LTE follows reports that Sprint may be considering a 3G network upgrade to EV-DO Rev. B.

Packingham would not specify a timeframe for when Sprint might make a leap to LTE. He suggested, however, that such a decision would be informed by customer reaction to the EVO 4G WiMax smartphone, which will be released on June 4, as well as an understanding of what work needs to be done at standards bodies to make a technology shift possible in its frequency bands.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:35:41 PM
re: Sprint RFP May Include LTE

To me it seems only prudent for Sprint to be issuing an RFP to get vendor input on the evolution of its core "next generation network."  As a majority owner of Clearwire Sprint currently enjoys a significant time-to-market advantage on 4G, and consumers will also see the immediate value of investing in an EVO 4G device.  With more than 100 MHz of 4G spectrum in most US markets, Sprint/Clearwire could deploy WiMAX and LTE networks side-by-side.  I am not surprised the company needs more details on CDMA/EV-DO evolution, how WiMAX vendors plan the evolution to 802.16m, and how the 3GPP vendors see the evolution of LTE-FD and TD-LTE toward IMT Advanced.  Many other issues have to be examined along the path to 4G, including the deployement of an evolved packet core and expanding the backhaul.  I only wish I could see the responses. 

Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:35:38 PM
re: Sprint RFP May Include LTE

Yeah, I think a lot is riding on the EVO for Sprint. WiMax's advantage is definitely that it's available here and now, and I think it can whet consumers' appetite for faster mobile broadband access. 

Could Sprint end up using WiMax for fixed/portable wireless broadband access and an upgraded cellular network -- whether that's EV-DO Rev. B or a migration to LTE, or a bit of both -- for mobile broadband services?

Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:35:37 PM
re: Sprint RFP May Include LTE

Prudent is the word. Sprint's keen to stress that its main motivation here is to pick the technology that will help it handle the mobile data deluge in the most cost efficient way.

I wonder which vendors will land the upgrade deal.

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