Sprint Rides DragonWave for Backhaul

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) will use microwave equipment from Canadian vendor DragonWave Inc. (AIM/Toronto: DWI; Nasdaq: DRWI) to backhaul its initial Xohm WiMax deployments in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., the companies revealed today.

Sprint is already working with FiberTower Corp. and "several other partners" to build out a microwave backhaul network for its WiMax deployments, according to a spokesman for the carrier.

DragonWave will supply microwave equipment and "enginering services" for the project, the spokesman explained.

Dragonwave says it has been working with Sprint for two to three years now.

"With Sprint, until you actually get the PO [purchase order], you’re never quite sure when they’re actually going to deploy," says Alan Solheim, VP of product management for DragonWave. "We held off making an announcement until we had a purchase order in our hands... With the turmoil they’re going through it’s been a long, slow process."

Sprint had said that backhaul issues were one of the reasons that it had to delay a scheduled April launch for WiMax. The company's first WiMax market in Baltimore is now due to be open for public use in September.

“There were a lot of false starts getting the backhaul network up and running,” Solheim says. “This was not so much a technology issue [but more of] a logistics issue.” (See It's All Sprint's Fault.)

“Sprint has been building an access network and leasing a backhaul network. Now, they need to build and operate a backhaul network... and that’s another set of skills... Wall Street was saying [to Sprint] you can’t go out and hire more people, but they had to find the resources to do the additional work.” (See 4G Backhaul: A Problem for All?)

DragonWave claims to have won most of the backhaul contracts for the world’s WiMax networks. The firm already works with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) on its pre-WiMax deployment. What is not yet clear yet, however, is how or whether the backhaul vendor will be involved with the "new" Clearwire venture. DragonWave wouldn't comment on that. (See Clearwire's Backhaul Bet.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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