Sprint Plots WiMax Shutdown, Backhaul Upgrade

Sprint is planning to shut down its WiMax network by the end of 2015 as it upgrades its backhaul to support its 3G upgrades and 4G rollout.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) revealed the plans in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday. It is reusing the 2.5GHz spectrum from the WiMax service for its new "Spark" LTE upgrade. (See Stephen Bye: Sprint's Network Visionary.)

It writes in the filing:

    As of the date of the Clearwire Acquisition, Clearwire had deployed WiMAX technology on approximately 17,000 cell towers and was in the process of deploying 4G LTE technology using the 2.5GHz spectrum on approximately 5,000 of these sites, which has now been completed. We plan to expand the 2.5 GHz 4G LTE deployment to approximately 5,000 more legacy Clearwire sites. In addition, we plan to cease using WiMAX technology by the end of 2015. We have also evaluated our consolidated cell tower portfolio, including the 17,000 cell towers obtained in the Clearwire Acquisition, and identified approximately 6,000 redundant sites that we expect to decommission and terminate the underlying leases.

As it moves to faster 4G LTE, the operator is also modifying its backhaul architecture, upgrading its time division multiplexing (TDM) backhaul technology with Ethernet. "We expect to incur termination costs associated with our TDM contractual commitments with third-party vendors ranging between approximately $175 million to $225 million, the majority of which we expect to record through the first quarter of 2016," Sprint says in the filing. (See Sprint to Place Big Backhaul Bet.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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