What Will Sprint Reveal of its 4G Plans?

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) may talk more about its "Network Vision" base station upgrade plan on its second-quarter earnings call Thursday but hold off on a 4G strategy update until later this year, according to Mizuho Securities USA Inc.

Sprint is widely expected to start supporting 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) -- along with WiMax and 3G CDMA -- as part of its Network Vision multi-modal base station update. Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has previously only talked broadly about future partnerships, even as LightSquared backer Philip Falcone reportedly sent investors at the Harbinger Capital Partners LP fund a letter saying that the 4G upstart had a Sprint deal in the bag back in June.

Michael Nelson, executive director of equity research in telecom services at Mizuho, writes in a research note Wednesday that Hesse & Co. will hold off on a 4G announcement for now but expects some kind of strategy update Thursday:

    We expect Sprint to provide an update to its Network Vision project as part of the earnings call, but expect the company to make a separate announcement regarding its 4G strategy later this year. Over time, we expect Sprint to enter into multiple network hosting agreements, which should increase flexibility and offset much of the cost associated with Sprint's network upgrade. Sprint can potentially leverage multiple parties and increase the company's available spectrum and bandwidth.

Sprint's current WiMax partner Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) will very likely be part of any ongoing 4G strategy. "Every option that we’re looking at includes WiMax and Clearwire," Sprint's Hesse said in March. "I think we should do more network sharing with Clearwire; we're just beginning to put that network equipment in place."

Why this matters
Sprint was the first operator in the U.S. to offer its "4G Now" service but is the only one remaining of the big three mobile providers not to have officially made a move to LTE yet.

For more
Read up on Sprint's 4G option anxiety:

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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