Sprint Nextel today announced plans for a nationwide 4G WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) network. The company has hosted trials of several technologies and decided on mobile WiMAX IEEE 802.16e for its next generation network. Analysts believe this is a blow to Qualcomm because the licensing fees it will receive are much less than it does from CDMA which is currently used by Sprint. Big backers of WiMAX include Motorola, Samsung and Intel. Motorola is planning on providing single and multi-mode WiMAX devices to Sprint.
Sprint will use its extensive 2.5GHz spectrum to build the network. The company already has enough spectrum to cover 85% of the top 100 US markets. Trials should start in the fourth quarter of 2007 and be ramped up to cover 100m consumers by 2008. Sprint estimates a $1 billion investment in 4G for 2007 and $1.5-2 billion in 2008.
The million dollar question is speed--the downlink should be 2-4 megabits per second. Uplink speeds were not announced, but are supposed to be "high-speed". With the 2-4 megabit figure, the network would be competing with DSL and cable modems in terms of speed. Sprint is planning on pricing the technology for consumers, unlike it's play in EV-DO. They are able to provide 1GB of usage for "well south of" $20.