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August 9, 2006

Sprint picks WiMax

Earlier in the year we covered Sprint Nextel’s push (in the USA) to take on the telco DSL providers with high speed wireless starting with EV-DO, but that was always just the first step. Now Sprint Nextel, not satisfied with just 3G (third-generation) mobile data, will roll out a faster 4G network using WiMax later this year:

The network, which will start to be rolled out by the fourth quarter and reach as many as 100 million people around the U.S. by the end of next year, will offer downstream speeds of 2Mbps to 4Mbps, Sprint said Tuesday. Combined with fast uplinks, WiMax will offer enough bandwidth for mobile videoconferencing, transfers of large enterprise files and other applications, executives said.

Partners Intel, Motorola, and Samsung Electronics plan to help by equipping notebook PCs and a variety of mobile devices to use the 4G network.

Sprint Nextel is the third-largest U.S. mobile operator. Its choice of WiMax is the first endorsement of the metropolitan-area wireless data system by a major U.S. carrier. Sprint holds licenses around the country for radio spectrum in the 2.5GHz band and had considered other 4G technologies. The carrier said it chose WiMax because it believes it could build an ecosystem of equipment makers around the technology, which is based on the IEEE 802.16e standard.

The 4G service will complement Sprint Nextel’s 3G EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) services, executives said at a New York press conference, monitored via webcast. The carrier is already offering video, music and other multimedia services on 3G, but that technology doesn’t deliver the economics Sprint needs, said Barry West, Sprint chief technology officer and president of Sprint’s newly formed 4G business unit. The WiMax network can deliver four times the throughput at one-tenth the cost of 3G, he said.

Pricing of 4G services will easily meet Sprint Nextel’s frequently stated goal of offering customers 1GB of data per month for less than US$20, West said. “We are significantly south of that,” he said.

The speed is great, but $20 per GB seems a bit pricey to me. Maybe that’s just the first GB and subsequent ones are much cheaper? They’re competing with fixed price “all you can eat” services like DSL to fixed locations or mobile services like their own EV-DO offering and can only charge so much for speed before customers will choose the lower speed option as “good enough.” And yes, prices will undoubtedly drop with time.

Posted at 9:32 am. Filed under Companies, EV-DO, Intel, Mobile Phones, Motorola, Samsung, Sprint, WiMax

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