A Sprint executive revealed this week that the major telecom corporation has been considering the deployment of a nationwide LTE network by 2013. At face value, this may not seem unusual. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all launched or committed to build LTE networks – a similar move by Sprint would only extend its compatibility and range of services. But the announcement comes as Sprint nears the conclusion of arbitration talks with its partner Clearwire. Clearwire operates the US’s largest WiMAX network, Sprint’s only 4G service. Sprint is majority owner of the 4G conglomerate. The two companies have been at loggerheads over a pricing war and talk of a Sprint LTE network could imply a pending divorce between Sprint and its current WiMAX operator.
If such a schism would occur, it would spell disaster for Clearwire. The young telecom is already muddled in funding issues for the completion of its 4G WiMAX network. If it loses its majority partner, Clearwire might as well just throw in the tower.
But don’t call your stockbroker yet. Sprint’s president of network operations and wholesale, Steve Elfman, assured listeners at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference that the company won’t make a final decision until the end of the second quarter, when all friction with Clearwire has been sorted out. Still, Sprint’s position is threatening. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Dan Hesse, Sprint’s chief exec said: “Our Plan A is together with Clearwire, but we do have a Plan B. If we don’t reach agreement, we will go and do our own thing.” It’s clear that Sprint is planning future strategies solo. How this will affect the future of WiMAX technology in the US, only the second-quarter will tell.… Read the rest