Sprint Expands 'Rev A'

Accelerating its drive to become the leader in wireless broadband networks, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) today said it has expanded its upgrade to EV-DO "Revision A" to three new markets: Miami, Portland, and Puerto Rico. The new areas bring the number of markets covered by the EV-DO Rev A technology to 24.

Sprint also said it has increased average data speeds in its Rev A markets, to 600 Kbit/s up to 1.4 Mbit/s downstream and 350-500 Kbit/s upstream. The improvements, says Sprint group manager for product marketing for mobile broadband Ron Wells, brings the network to the level of "a good DSL connection."

The addition of South Florida to the markets covered by Sprint's wireless broadband network comes just in time for Super Bowl XLI, to be played this Sunday evening at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.

Sprint went public with the first Rev A upgrades in October of last year. As of Sept. 30, 2006, according to Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat, the company's wireless broadband network had 1.5 million subscribers and was growing by 25 percent quarter-to-quarter. Sprint says its revenues from the high-speed network were $4 billion in 2006 and continue to grow.

Faced with declining customer growth on its conventional cellular network, Sprint is putting a huge bet on wireless broadband. Sprint lost 306,000 monthly subscribers in its most recent quarter and predicts that 2007 revenue will be essentially unchanged from 2006. (See Sprint Wobbles Again.)

The company spent over $7 billion to enhance its networks in 2006, and plans to spend another $3 billion over the next two years to build a nationwide "4G" WiMax network. Once the WiMax system is up and running, says Wells, it will complement the EV-DO network.

"Our broadband 3G network will be the underlying infrastructure for places where WiMax is not yet available," Wells explains. "Users will have a chip on their laptop so they can be on whichever network works best for where you are. We will have the ability to deliver mobile broadband in multiple ways as the customers demand."

Sprint also said that by late February users will be able to buy a new EV-DO wireless card for laptops, the Novatel Wireless Inc. (Nasdaq: NVTL) EX720, which fits the "express slots" found on new Windows laptops, and some Macintosh models. The new card will cost $180 with a two-year data subscription.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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