Sprint's Got WiMax Plans

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) may use WiMax metropolitan area technology to provide high-speed wireless broadband services in the coming years.

The operator, which joined the WiMax Forum this week, says it hopes to start beta testing WiMax equipment towards the end of this year (see Sprint Joins WiMax Forum). Oliver Valente, VP of technology development at Sprint, says the carrier is looking at WiMax as a potential way of delivering wireless voice, video, and data services, "beyond what mobile can offer."

Sprint's wireless arm is currently in the process of rolling out CDMA EV-DO services that offer average downloads speeds of 300 to 500 kbit/s. Since no actual WiMax network is up and running yet, it's hard to say exactly what download speeds will be. But most WiMax people that Unstrung has spoken to expect to see average downloads speeds of around 1 Mbit/s.

Sprint is well placed to offer cable-like broadband wireless services in the U.S. "We have a large bandwidth of spectrum available," notes Valente. Indeed, once the merger with Nextel Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: NXTL) is completed, the operator will have 90MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum, covering 80 markets.

The operator has tested other wireless technologies, such as the broadband offering from Flarion Technologies, in its bid to offer speedier wireless services. But, at the moment, Valente says that WiMax is the leading contender.

Valente says Sprint is hoping that WiMax will become a "global, open technology standard."

Valente didn't say exactly when Sprint would be able to start WiMax services, if the tests run smoothly. But, given the recent delays in the WiMax's Forum's testing process, most vendors now expect to deliver initial WiMax product very late in 2005 or early in 2006.

Given the 12 to 18 months it usually takes major carriers to road-test such equipment, it might be reasonable to expect to see initial Sprint WiMax services in the second half of 2007.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

flyingsausage 12/5/2012 | 3:26:55 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans
How many bandwidth do you really need on a mobile device for video ? Screens are still not so big there.
flyingsausage 12/5/2012 | 3:26:56 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans
Just another question, thinking about WiMax for Internet Access only (no triple play).
These days, there's so many WiFi networks in the cities, most of them not protected (just go in the street and surf through the broadband connection of your neighbour), allowing free mobile Internet Access.
Then, how many people would pay for WiMax ? Some niche applications will work for sure, but could it really be a cashcow for operators ?

fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:27:13 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans The issue with BRS (MMDS) is that the spectrum isn't appropriately paired for frequency-division duplex use. It was originally intended for broadcast, after all. So a mobile solution would have to be time-division duplex. That's certainly possible, but it has issues. Sprint-Nextel together has a ton of PCS spectrum, including Nextel's unique new nationwide "G-block" PCS 10 MHz allocation. So they don't really need BRS for mobility. It is one of those theoretical examples of "intermodal competition" that Powell treats as real, even though it hasn't yet been fully invented, let alone deployed or found cost-effective.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:27:15 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans fgoldstein writes:
So I see this spectrum as being a good double play, mainly for fixed use (FDD is better for mobile). Perhaps Sprint/Nextel will come up with an affordable broadband WLL radio? That's another holy grail that AT&T notoriously failed at with Angel....

I find it hard to believe that Sprint/Nextel will squander spectrum to a technology that isn't mobile.

I've looked at FDD when studying up on 3GPP. My view is that WiMax will eventually adopt the IEEE 802.16e work. Functionally, the two standards seem to do pretty much the same thing. It's a question of whether you think FDD or WiMax with mobility enhancements will eventually end up in every laptop and PDA.
fgoldstein 12/5/2012 | 3:27:18 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans
MMDS - Video
WiMax - Data/VOIP

Well, not exactly.

MMDS - old name for the commercial half of the 2.5-2.69 MHz band. Now offically BRS.

WiMax - a modulation technique and profile of 802.16, not linked to any particular frequency.

I'm dubious of significant video going on the BRS band. The new band configuration (to be phased in) gives each major licensee (MMDS/BRS and ITFS/EBS) one 6 MHz "middle band segment" TV channel and IIRC 16.5 MHz upper or lower band segment frequencies most suitable for broadband 2-way TDD operation. "Wireless cable" is dead in most places. But it's a good place for WiMax.

Sprint and Nextel are the two major owners -- Nextel bought out MCI's holdings, as well as Nucentrix', so when the two merge, the band will be theirs. (Clearpoint is mostly based on rented ITFS spectrum.) They don't have all channels everywhere, but by far more than anyone else. The FCC's license database is public, but note that Sprint's holdings are under many names.

So I see this spectrum as being a good double play, mainly for fixed use (FDD is better for mobile). Perhaps Sprint/Nextel will come up with an affordable broadband WLL radio? That's another holy grail that AT&T notoriously failed at with Angel....
iometro 12/5/2012 | 3:27:18 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans
MMDS - Video
WiMax - Data/VOIP

'Nuff said.
iometro 12/5/2012 | 3:27:19 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans WiMax does not have enough bandwidth to support triple play in a point to multipoint configuration.

Exactly my point. WiMax by itself cannont support triple-play, but for spectrum owners with existing MMDS spectrum, they can combine it with WiMax capabilities to introduce a very compelling offering. My guess is that something very close to this concept is on the mind of McCaw and partially driving his entry into the space.
alchemy 12/5/2012 | 3:27:30 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans WiMax does not have enough bandwidth to support triple play in a point to multipoint configuration. If you use it with directional antennas in a point to point configuration, it's good for specialty applications like rural and office building connectivity.

I see WiMax in point to multipoint mode as an improved physical layer for 3G wireless. Voice is SIP-based with compression codecs down an IPSec pipe a la 3GPP. You can do reasonable mid-bandwidth (~128k/sec) videophone on it. I think the killer app for videophone is the "Honey, is this the one you want me to buy?" feature. Make videophone mobile and it will catch on. You can access web sites from a handheld device without resorting to that pathetic low bandwidth WAP garbage.

It will be several years before WiMax chips appear that are small enough and low-power enough to put in a cell phone. To make them low-power, you need to have lots of WiMax base stations around. I don't see Sprint as having the ability to deploy this since they don't have access to enough antenna farms to provide adequate coverage. Instead, I see the MSOs and ILECs offering this since they already have the internet bandwidth and power up on the phone pole to mass-deploy low-power WiMax base stations. A cellular company that isn't owned by an ILEC or MSO is eventually going to go the way of the dinosaur.
iometro 12/5/2012 | 3:27:33 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans WiMax by itself may not be best suited for triple-play, but WiMax coupled with MMDS most certinly is.

If you remember, in the old days MMDS was the original "wireless cable", able to broadcast around 30-40 channels of video with old compression technology. Of course, DBS has since blew them out of the box, but if you think about today's digital compression capabilities, all of a sudden Sprint/Nextel's 90mhz of spectrum becomes very interesting.

Imagine: with 60mhz of that spectrum they could allocate ten 6mhz carriers for digital video. If they use MS WM9/VC-1 at ~2mb/s they could squeeze close to twenty digital "channels" per 6mhz "carrier". If this was so, then theoretically, they could have a broadcast overlay network capable of delivering 200 channels of digital cable, with 30mhz of spectrum left over for Wimax data/voip...in 80 markets!

Sounds like the makings of a triple-play to me.
Y2KickIT 12/5/2012 | 3:27:39 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans The suggest may be that 802.16 "WiMAX" is better suited to triple play than 802.11 "Wi-Fi."

Anyone remember Sprint "ION?" LMDS and MMDS use the same spectrum as 802.16, this is what Sprint is banking on, the other big holder of this spectrum is MCI.

This was one of the merger points with WorldCom and Sprint, that they together would have a wireless last mile solution.

Just like the often discussed use of DSL for triple play, this as well will have too many challenges and limitations.

There is no substitute for fiber. We will see iterations of attempts to use something else, but in the end the final investment will be fiber.
boondocksbandit 12/5/2012 | 3:27:40 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans Hmm, you have to take what NT says with a pinch of salt, they probably feel threatened by WiMAX. WiMAX security is pretty good, and the "mobile" version of WiMAX aka IEEE 802.16E is probably what Sprint is looking at.
materialgirl 12/5/2012 | 3:27:41 AM
re: Sprint's Got WiMax Plans "Beyond what mobile can offer"? NT just said that 3G offers better security and mobility than WiMax. WiMax is clearly faster than most of the 3G technologies bandied about. If it is not secure or mobile, what does it offer "beyond mobile"?
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