Sprint & Nokia's 10 Gallon WiMax

Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) will deploy four mobile WiMax networks for Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) in Texas during the first half of 2008, the companies revealed yesterday.

Reston, Va.-based Sprint first announced in January that it was bringing the world's No. 1 handset maker on board with its WiMax plans. Nokia will deploy WiMax in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio during 2008. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Samsung Corp. are rolling out similar networks in the Chicago and Washington, D.C., markets, respectively. (See Sprint Nextel Gets Texas.)

Sprint wants to deploy a WiMax network covering 100 million people in the United States by the end of next year. Some analysts have questioned whether the operator can meet this deadline, but Sprint insists it will. (See Sprint Facing WiMax Delays? and Motorola's WiMax Wait.)

Nokia is also working on devices that will connect to the network. A Sprint spokesman said recently that Nokia will provide Sprint with "multimedia computers and Web tablets" to exploit the broadband capabilities of WiMax. (See Sprint Picks Nokia for WiMax.)

That's the key reason Nokia is in the game, according to an analyst note from Dresdner Kleinwort . "Nokia, we infer, views the WiMax experiment mainly as a vehicle to regain handset share," the analysts write.

"A recovery of the North American mobile device operations has long stood and continues to stand on the top of Nokia's strategic agenda. Whether Sprint Nextel constitutes the right vehicle to effect a positive change is more debatable."

Dresdner is predicting no more than 10 million WiMax units will be shipped in 2009.

Despite these possible issues, Sprint has given much more detail on its mobile WiMax plans than its closest rival, Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), which has said only that it will use the 802.16e-based technology as suitable boxes become available.

Clearwire's $25-a-share IPO last week quickly dropped to $20 a pop, precipitating a new round of questions about how long it will take to get a mobile WiMax network running in the U.S. and how much it might cost. (See Clearwire's Bubble Bursts.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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