Sprint Hints At Plans For 2.5GHz Spectrum

Hot on the heels of investing $10 Million in UMTS TDD solution provider IPWireless, Sprint-Nextel has now shed some light on how they plan to use their massive, nationwide 2.5GHz spectrum. This is important because analysts aplenty have pontificated on how Sprint will be a kingmaker in the Broadband Wireless sector when they choose their technology (from EV-DO, WiMAX, Flarion, or IPWireless). Sprint’s COO Len Lauer revealed that the carrier plans to deploy a high-power, mobile, IP-based, wireless broadband network that could offer data connectivity and media services like mobile TV and music (Hmmm… IPWireless also announced a mobile TV solution yesterday.) Sprint further said that the network would be deployed by 2008, and that their technology decision would be announced in the first half of this year. While many in the WiMAX set have assumed that Sprint would use 802.16 technology, it seems unlikely given that mobile WiMAX would not be able to meet their schedule. Lauer said the technology they choose “will deliver a gigabyte of data for $20 to $40 per month.” Note that New Zealand’s UMTS TDD carrier, Woosh Wireless, offers a 1GB wireless broadband plan (with VoIP phone service and data) for US$40/mo. I may have a bias in this, since my consulting firm does work for UMTS TDD, but I’ve been straight shooting here at Techdirt for four years. So make your own conclusion: Does it seem like Sprint is zeroing in on a particular technology for their 2.5GHz?

In a separate “so what” conclusion to this post: Analysts are commenting on how Sprint is eschewing the other approaches to Mobile TV, such as their current 3G approach, or the independent networks of Crown Castle (DVB-H) or Qualcomm (MediaFLO). Skirting these Mobile TV solutions, however, makes some sense for a carrier with as varied spectrum holdings as Sprint. They have their own spectrum, so they want to use it, and offer a package differentiated from other carriers. But also, the ‘4G’ network approach allows them to use the new WWAN for mobile TV, but also for any other IP based use, both broadcast or two-way — which really is quite a flexible position. Flexibility is good when Mobile TV is still an uncertain market.

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