Sprint to Use WiMAX for 4G Network

Sprint Nextel committed to WiMAX on Tuesday, saying it would use the technology for its 4G wireless broadband network. The wireless carrier would work closely with Intel, Motorola and Samsung to deploy the network nationwide, covering as much as 85 percent of the population in the top 100 markets when completed.

The news is a huge win for supporters of WiMAX, and especially Intel, which has been pushing the technology heavily. However, it is as equal a setback for Qualcomm, which has developed its own technologies that it receives high royalties for.

The new wireless broadband network would use Sprint's extensive 2.5-GHz spectrum holdings, the company said.

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"This announcement is another step in Sprint Nextel's broadband mobility leadership, and we expect to establish a first-to-market next generation network advantage," Sprint Nextel president and CEO Gary Forsee said in a statement. "We will have a unique broadband capability for meeting the growing access and mobile Internet needs of businesses, governments and consumers when and where they want."

The planned 4G launch does not mean Sprint would abandon its old 3G network; the company said it would continue to invest in and offer access to the network well into the foreseeable future.

$1 billion will be invested into the 4G network in 2007, and an additional $1.5 billion in 2008. Sprint says WiMAX would offer a substational cost-per-megabit and performance advantage over the current 3G network. Multimode devices will be created by Motorola and Samsung that would be able to take advantage of both the old and new networks, Sprint said.

"Sprint Nextel's decision confirms Intel's belief that WiMAX is the wireless technology of choice to deliver affordable broadband access," Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney said. "Intel is pleased to work with Sprint Nextel, Motorola and Samsung to bring the promise of mobile broadband and WiMAX to consumers nationwide."

Analysts said Sprint's decision was likely influenced by Qualcomm's high royalty fee demands, causing one of its best customers to look elsewhere for next-generation data.

"It's another public strike against Qualcomm's high fees, which seem to be riling carriers in developing markets," Katie Fehrenbacher wrote for GigaOm on Tuesday. "It's not too big a suprise that Sprint would not want to keep shelling out money to the same company if there are other comparable technologies available."

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