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Sprint will be deploying an LTE 4G network for the first time.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Sprint has traditionally backed WiMAX, a rival 4G technology. The new deal puts the future of the company's WiMAX network in limbo.  (Source: Sprint)
Third party communications firm will provide Sprint with its LTE services

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) was the first major U.S. carrier to try to deploy a 4G spec. network.  Sprint's WiMAX network launched in September. 2008 and has slowly picked up steam adding more cities.  Sprint has indicated, though, that it may consider switching to LTE -- the 4G standard that Verizon Wireless (VZ) currently supports and AT&T Inc.'s (T) promises to soon support.

Now it appears Sprint is preparing to take the plunge, entering into a $13.5B USD contract with LightSquared to deploy an LTE network.  LightSquared licenses and owns large chunks of the so-called "L-Band" (1-2 GHz) spectrum, and thus has room to grow its LTE offerings.

The network will open in some markets next year, and will be available to over "260 million Americans" by 2014.

Under the agreement LightSquared will give Sprint $9B USD in cash for the infrastructure deployment, as well as "purchase credits" for LTE and satellite service valued at $4.5B USD.

Under the convoluted deal, which ties the two companies closely together, Sprint may be able to purchase extra LTE services from LightSquared, using the network it was paid to deploy.  Other carriers may also purchase LightSquared services (perhaps AT&T or Verizon).

LightSquared, who sells service to a number of small operators, such as Cellular South, also entered into a contract for 3G nationwide roaming on Sprint's network.  This part of the deal should mean extra money for Sprint, and could prove a boon to local network subscribers traveling around the country.

Overall the deal seems like a smart one all around.  Cash-strapped Sprint gets a big payday and the chance to sell LTE phones like the HTC Thunderbolt by HTC Corp. (SEO:066570) for the first time.  And LightSquared gains valuable infrastructure to license to players big and small.

The biggest seeming potential downside is the quandary the deal leaves Sprint's WiMAX network.  Now that Sprint is officially going to be adopting LTE, customers may be hesitant to purchase WiMAX handsets like the HTC EVO 3D or the Epic 4G by Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930) -- particularly when Sprint charges $10 USD extra per month for WiMAX data plans on those phones.  A big question going ahead is whether Sprint will continue to expand its WiMAX network, or focus its efforts solely on LTE, going forward.

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What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Pirks on 7/28/2011 8:15:16 PM , Rating: 2
Why switch from WiMAX to LTE at all? Much better speeds? Range? Or what?

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By vision33r on 7/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By kisame_2011 on 7/28/2011 10:28:19 PM , Rating: 3
Lte has two versions.One is 3.9G and other is 4G.
4G version is called LTE Advanced.
Wimax is true 4G tech.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Pirks on 7/28/2011 10:31:31 PM , Rating: 2
So if WiMAX is true 4G, why switch from it to LTE?

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By kisame_2011 on 7/28/2011 10:36:18 PM , Rating: 2
RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By theapparition on 7/29/2011 11:56:02 AM , Rating: 2
Apparently, neither of you have a clue. By your own link, WiMax isn't considered "4G".

LTE Advanced and WiMAN-Advanced were initially considered the only technologies capable of delivering true 4G. However, the ITU changed thier definition of 4G, which now inlcudes both LTE, WiMax, and HSPA+. The main reason for this change was the fact that there is not enough bandwidth to support LTE Advanced or WiMAN. It just can't be done right now.

So like it or not, all carriers have "4G" offerings. AT&T and TMobile with HSPA+, Sprint with WiMax and Verizon with LTE.

You can b|tch and moan all you want, but it is 4G. Call the next leap 5G for all I care. It doesn't matter what you call it. In the end, I'd rather have 50mbps 3G than 3mbps 4G. But to claim that either tech isn't 4G is incorrect.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Lord 666 on 7/28/2011 10:43:20 PM , Rating: 3
In NYC, WiMax sucks compared to LTE.

WiMax to either of Sprint's test sites yields 3mb down/1mb down under the wide open sky. Indoors it barely breaks 1mb down/.2 up. Latency is around 90 - 140ms

LTE consistenly gets 20mb down/9 up outside with 10mb down/5 up indoors. Latency is lower with 50ms - 140ms.

The ONLY advantage WiMax has over VZW LTE at the moment is the ability to get a static public IP assigned to it. VZW was *supposed* to have the ability for months, but its now further pushed back. Why the need for static public IPs? Cisco DMVPN requires it and LTE makes for a great backup connection... much better than WiMax.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Jedi2155 on 7/29/2011 5:08:56 AM , Rating: 3
I typically get 4-6 mbps/1.5 at my work location (inside the office), but I've peaked at 9 mbps. I never get less than 1 mbps as that is the breaking point to where I lose my 4g radio connection completely.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By protosv on 8/1/2011 9:20:33 PM , Rating: 2
In the Bronx, I get 3Mb/768Kb indoors, and I've peaked at 10Mb down 3Mb up outdoors.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By amanojaku on 7/28/2011 10:49:31 PM , Rating: 5
Sprint only picked up WiMAX because LTE did not exist four years ago. Sprint, losing out to Verizon and AT&T, jumped on WiMAX to get a competitive advantage as the first "4G" carrier in the US. Unfortunately, it backfired because the other carriers decided to wait for LTE. As a result, manufacturers like Cisco, Nokia and Samsung phased out or never built WiMAX equipment in favor of the upcoming LTE standard. If you can't buy it you can't deploy it, hence WiMAX is slowly dying. Yota, the largest WiMAX operator in the world, is also switching to LTE for this reason.

What vision33r said is incorrect; LTE is NOT 4G, it is 3G. LTE-Advanced is 4G, and it is not available yet since it was just ratified in June. WiMAX is not 4G, either, but it will be when 802.16m is built into the next WiMAX specification.

WiMAX and LTE have similar theoretical speeds: both aim for 1Gbit/sec to fixed locations and 100Mbit/sec to mobile users, although WiMAX has slightly more bandwidth in practice (~10-20%). Range is tricky, as WiMAX limits itself to 50km, while LTE can go up to 100km. WiMAX aims to guarantee performance at the cost of range, while LTE provides range at the cost of performance. In practice, both operate best under 5km. WiMAX is also more energy efficient, and less prone to interference and performance degradation over greater distances.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Omega215D on 7/29/2011 2:27:33 AM , Rating: 2
But at the band that WiMax is in there will be penetration issues compared to LTE in the 700MHz range.

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By ElFenix on 7/29/2011 10:29:19 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't quite right. Sprint had some use it or lose it frequency space and had to go with WiMax as LTE wouldn't have been ready to deploy soon enough.

LTE and WiMax are more accurately described as Pre-4G. HSDPA+ may not by 4G even under the new lax definition as it is not a forerunner to IMT-Advanced (which is true 4G).

EDGE actually meets the 3G definition (IMT-2000) but it wasn't until AT&T decided to brand HSPA as "3G" that anyone cared about "G"s. And now they're branding HSPA as 4G :roll:

RE: What's wrong with WiMAX?
By Shadowself on 7/29/2011 8:41:00 AM , Rating: 2
As I've said in this site before...
The problem with WiMax is Doppler Spread. For any siginicant speed between the base station and the handset Doppler Spread kills you. It is not a Doppler problem. It is a Doppler Spread problem. LTE and LTE Advanced don't have that problems.

Now for low speed applications (especially static applications) this is not a problem.

As mentioned elsewhere, neither WiMax (in its current implementation) nor LTE is truly 4G per the original definition of "4G" by the ITU --- although the ITU has softened their stance that anything that does not support 100 Mbps is not 4G. Many are still clinging to that definition and thus only LTE Advanced or the IMT Advanced compliant WiMax variant (based upon WiMax and the 802.16m standard) are considered by them to be true 4G. Unfortunately when the ITU relaxed their definition of what 4G is or is not, the ITU didn't really give absolute definitions. Some are even claiming that HSPA+ is 4G under the new rules.

The real problem with WiMax is that Sprint was/is the only major carrier supporting it. This makes handset vendors reluctant to build for you. And, the only chipset of which I've heard that supports all four standards (GSM/CDMA/LTE/WiMax) is so large and power hungry that no one will ever use it. So an all around universal phone is not going to happen if WiMax remains as a desired one of a set of four. (And yes, I know GSM uses CDMA techniques. I'm just using the terms for the four major types as they are commonly used.)

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