Where Is the Sprint 3G Femtocell?
Sprint was the first U.S. operator to deploy a femtocell, the Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) Airave, back in 2007. (See Sprint Goes Femto.) The new 3G EV-DO box is supposed to boost data coverage and speeds in the home, along with voice calls.
Back in June 2009, Mathew Oommen, VP of device and technology development at Sprint, told Unstrung that the operator would be the first to launch a "full commercial service" offering 3G femtocells in the U.S., beating AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless to the punch. It emerged that in July, Sprint had inked a master purchase agreement whereby Airvana would supply the carrier with its 3G "HubBub" CDMA femtocells through December 2014. (See Sprint: We'll Beat AT&T to 3G Femto and Airvana Wins Major Sprint Femto Deal.)
Since that burst of braggadocio, however, the trail has gone cold.
Unstrung has contacted several spokespeople at the carrier for any additional news on the 3G femtocell. No one has yet replied.
Airvana is a little more open but couldn't provide any new details on when it might ship the home base stations to Sprint. "We're not in a position to comment on shipping," a spokesman said. "What we can confirm is what's in the 8K we filed, indicating that we have a supply contract to supply Sprint with 3G femtocells."
Chelmsford, Mass.-based Airvana said back in December that it had inked a deal with four private equity firms to take the company private for $530 million. (See Airvana Going Private for $530M.)
Sprint could still potentially beat AT&T -- under Oommen's original terms anyway -- by offering a widespread commercial 3G femtocell service. AT&T is currently testing 3G femtocells in a small number of markets. Verizon, meanwhile, has made no official announcement of its 3G femto plans. (See Look for AT&T's Femto 'Soft Launch' Soon.)
If a Sprint 3G femtocell is imminent, however, the operator and its supplier are playing their cards close to the chest.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung