Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has said that it will reveal how it evolves its 4G strategy within the next six months with LightSquared now reportedly on the operator's list of possible options.

Sprint has the option of investing further in Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) and continuing with a WiMax-only service or adding Long Term Evolution (LTE) to the mix for 4G, using its partner for the new technology or re-jigging its digital spectrum to add more 4G to its 3G services. The operator's "Network Vision" (aka "Project Leapfrog") strategy allows it to add LTE to its multi-modal bases but none of the company's executives has definitively said that it will move to LTE.

They say
Richard Pike at Techie Insider is reporting that Sprint is in secret talks with LightSquared with an eye to using the LTE upstart's planned satellite and terrestrial 4G network. This lone report doesn't reveal its source -- or sources -- but a rumored Sprint and LightSquared tie-up is nonetheless worth keeping an eye on.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, says that Sprint is de-emphasizing its current 4G WiMax service and, hence, its partnership with Clearwire. Last year, the company had tied the growth of its "4G Now" service to executive bonuses but the Sprint board has now dropped that requirement for 2011, it was revealed Monday.

Need a refresher course on Sprint's multiple options for 4G? The operator's hometown paper, The Kansas City Star, is there for you.

Mark Davis has a nice, comprehensive rundown of how Sprint's early 4G lead is fading away. The piece builds on the operator's statements at Mobile World Congress but lays out all the options for the third-ranked cellular player as larger rivals start to deploy LTE.

We say
Want to understand how Sprint can move to LTE? LR Mobile has the details:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:11:36 PM
re: Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

I'd be shocked if Sprint wasn't at least talking to LightSquared. Doesn't it seem like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire though? I mean from one underfunded 4G provider to the next in line. How will investors view that?

CraigPlunkett 12/5/2012 | 5:11:34 PM
re: Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

I suppose you do have to build where the customers are :-) That is one of the basic rules after all.  Bodes well for us mobile broadband consumers.  I still think that even with the Clearwire overlap, the wholesale approach would be the right thing for Sprint to increase its 4G options.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:11:34 PM
re: Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

Sounds beautifully utopian Craig,


Thing is, we already know that LightSquared -- even its earliest roll-outs -- is directly taking on Clearwire with buildouts in Chicago and Dallas. Probably followed by NYC and LA in 2012. Assuming the money keeps coming in...

CraigPlunkett 12/5/2012 | 5:11:34 PM
re: Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

Why can't it just be a wholesale agreement to use LightSquared's net once it gets built?  It would be a relatively simple LTE/3G handset, a la the EVO series.  If Lightsquared builds where Clearwire isn't, it enhances the available 4G options for Sprint from a retail coverage point of view without it having to build the LTE net itself.

No frying pans or fires necessary.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:11:33 PM
re: Sprint's 4G Options in Flux

As far as I know, all LightSquared deals are wholesale. They say they've signed five operators so far.

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