The second in a series of articles about 4G is here! We chatted with Sprint about their current 4G situation and their future plans for 4G here in the United States. The interview information is after the break.
These questions were answered by Sprint for Mobile Central on January 12, 2011.
Q. Why did Sprint feel the need to launch a 4G network so early? Why did Sprint choose the 4G technology they chose?
WiMAX was the first 4G technology that was commercially available. It provided us with the time to market advantage when we rolled out 4G in Baltimore in 2008.
We believe there are several advantages to WiMax:
Q. Will Sprint make the 4G network national like Verizon does?
Sprint is currently in 71 markets across the nation, while Verizon only covers 39. We fully intend to continue to build and provide a nationwide 4G network, but do not have a completion date at this time. Sprint is committed to WiMAX deployment today, as the first national wireless carrier to make 4G a reality. The multi-mode strategy that is part of our Network Vision overhaul allows us to continue delivering 4G via WiMAX and to consider additional technologies down the road if we choose. As a result, Sprint will be positioned to take advantage of alternatives, if and when they make sense. Sprint aims to continue its 4G leadership position, regardless of technology choice.
Q. How will Sprint handle 4G roaming?
Sprint recently signed international 4G roaming agreements with Digicel in Jamaica and Global Mobile in Taiwan, leveraging the global ecosystem for 4G services to enable travelers on the go. Select Sprint devices that operate with the Sprint SmartViewSM Connection Manager will automatically detect the Digicel and Global Mobile networks, giving customers the option to connect and roam with an unlimited 24 hour Daypass. Pricing and launch details of the agreements are still to be determined.
4G roaming here in the US for visitors from other countries and networks will be determined by our partner, Clearwire. Sprint is harnessing the power of 4G as the majority shareholder of Clearwire, the independent company that is building the WiMAX network.
Q. What is the future of 4G on Sprint’s network?
Clearwire is an independent company and responsible for developing the strategy to maximize the success of their WiMAX build-out across the country. They make these decisions with the input of their board of directors. Sprint is the first national wireless carrier to offer 4G services on the Clearwire WiMAX network. They will soon announce their plans for 2011 and we must respect that.
We (Sprint and Clearwire) will continue to build out and expand the Sprint 4G network. Sprint 4G (in partnership with Clearwire) is on a build-out track to provide coverage, capacity and dependability where our customers use wireless data the most. In addition to the exceptional network experience, Sprint expects to continue its leadership in the industry by offering the best value and the most compelling portfolio of devices. Today we offer unlimited 4G and over a dozen 4G devices – including the award winning HTC EVO 4G and Samsung Epic 4G with the first embedded notebook coming soon. We expect to more than lead the pack with more handsets, tablets, M2M devices and hotspots.
We have the proven experience, the devices, the value, the network, the technology and the spectrum to be the leader in 4G well into the future.
Q. Why partner with another company to build out the 4G network? Why not do it yourselves?
Sprint partnered with Clearwire so that we could have a partner fully focused on rolling out a completely new, next-generation network while Sprint remained focused on the core needs of the business.
Q. In the USA, pretty much every carrier except Sprint and T-Mobile is moving to LTE. Most carriers across the world are moving to LTE as well. Is there a possibility of tri-mode WiMAX, LTE, and CDMA+EVDO phones? Or even quad-mode WiMAX, LTE, GSM+UMTS, and CDMA+EVDO phones? Obviously this would better facilitate roaming in the USA and other countries.
Our Network Vision blueprint, announced in December, affords Sprint the flexibility to run LTE or any other technology on our network. However, Sprint has stated very emphatically that we’re committed to WiMAX as our 4G strategy. Launching WiMAX has given Sprint an incredible speed-to-market advantage over the competition. Sprint currently offers 4G service in 71 markets in 28 states and has launched 17 devices. And the truth is, WiMAX and LTE are both OFDM based technologies and can achieve similar speeds. What really matters is spectrum and Sprint has more spectrum than any other national carrier rolling out 4G. That means that the Sprint 4G network will continue to offer a strong, fast, dependable 4G experience even when the network has millions more users. The multi-mode base stations and technology simply afford Sprint the flexibility to deploy additional 4G technologies down the road.
Q. Will Sprint offer voice over the 4G network, so that phones don’t have to rely on the older CDMA+EVDO network? I’m sure that being able to completely turn off the CDMA+EVDO radio and use 4G for everything would conserve a lot of battery life, and for people in 4G areas, that would be fantastic!
Voice over WiMAX is not part of the current roadmap but as the technology evolves and it proves to be a cost effective alternative, Sprint will of course continue to evaluate it.
Q. Verizon has touted that their 4G LTE service offers lower latency and higher bandwidth availability than both Sprint and T-Mobile. How does Sprint respond to that?
Verizon’s LTE offering is too new for Sprint to comment. Once a critical mass of devices are running on it and it is a fully loaded network, Sprint and other third parties will be able to perform comparative testing.
Q. Is LTE still in the cards for Sprint’s own native network in the near future? Why or why not?
Sprint is committed to WiMAX deployment today, as the first national wireless carrier to make 4G a reality for our customers. Our multi-mode strategy allows us to continue delivering 4G via WiMAX and to consider additional technologies down the road if we choose. As a result, Sprint can be positioned to take advantage of alternatives, if and when they make sense. Sprint aims to continue its 4G leadership position, regardless of technology choice.