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Sprint's Many Possible Flavors of LTE

Dan Jones

2:45 PM -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) could be using three major flavors of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) by the end of 2012.

CNET reports that the carrier is currently deploying LTE equipment on its Nextel frequencies. The plan is to launch the LTE service in early 2012 and switch off the iDEN service currently on the spectrum as soon as 2013.

In addition, Sprint plans to use LightSquared spectrum to launch an LTE network in 2012, while supporting millions of existing users over the Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) WiMax network. There's a possibility that Sprint could also end up using Clearwire's super-fast TD-LTE network sometime next year.

Of course, having its own LTE network is a good insurance policy for Sprint: LightSquared's network might never get off the ground if the GPS interference issue doesn't get solved, and Clearwire hasn't got the money to deploy its LTE network yet.

Having several deployments happening at once may also help Sprint to quickly pump up its LTE footprint. I do wonder how Sprint will manage to provide access across four or five (LTE-times-three, WiMax, 3G CDMA) different networks and frequencies though. Seems like many device makers could balk at the radio requirements.

It could be more likely that the operator will start by offering different branded services initially -- gold-standard video and gaming over TD-LTE for instance -- rather than rushing to massive multi-modal smartphones in 2012.

In effect, Sprint could be creating device roaming issues on what is -- nominally at least -- its own network.

We might learn more at Sprint's big 4G reveal at its strategy meeting on Oct. 7.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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12/5/2012 | 4:52:30 PM
re: Sprint's Many Possible Flavors of LTE

Sprint will have issues in getting the baseband chips to support the various digital formats as well as the frequencies.  DSP's can do most of the heavy lifting in terms of the various digital formats; LTE, EVDO, 1xRTT and WiMax, but can't help with the bands.  I would expect the prices to be quite high and the development time to be long.  I would guess many of the manufacturers to pass on it.


Sprint should have killed off iDen years ago and used the spectrum for something else.

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