Sprint Nextel: LTE/WiMAX Double Header?

Sprint says smart phone sales have exceeded feature phone sales and now comprise 34% of all sales, making it the largest device category. Sprint Nextel predicts data traffic will double every year through 2014 at a compound annual growth rate of 108%.

“The average smart phone uses 10 times the data that the average feature phone would use,” said Kevin Packingham, SVP of product and technology development at Sprint Nextel. “We expect this to continue well into the next several years as we evolve the network to WiMAX and LTE,” he added.

Forty percent of American adults use their cell phones to access the internet, according to Pew Research. That’s up from 32 percent a year ago. Tablets will use far more data than smartphones, say market researchers.

Sprint Nextel could move quickly to deploy FDD-LTE says RCR Wireless, using its traditional 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum holdings, while keeping WiMAX (at 2.6 GHz) and making additional 2.6 GHz spectrum available.

“We do see them as complimentary,” said Sprint’s Packingham.

Verizon and AT&T plan to deploy LTE in the 700 MHz band, which has 2-3 times the range of broadband wireless in the 2-3 GHz range.

Meanwhile, the FCC wants the D-Block of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, to be available to cellular carriers for joint public/private use. The FCC says that would achieve nationwide broadband at a lower cost. Their plan mirrors draft legislation from Henry Waxman. The Public Safety Alliance wants it for themselves (pdf). They’re backed by AT&T and Verizon who already own 700 MHz cellular spectrum. The cellcos don’t want more competition and plan to utilize taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

The FCC’s Consensus Plan, was largely agreed to by Sprint Nextel.

The 2005 plan swapped Nextel’s interfering frequencies (adjacent to public service frequencies), for a block in the 800 and 1.9 GHz band. It gave many of Nextel’s 700, 800, and 900 Mhz frequencies to public service users at no charge in exchange for 10 Mhz at 1.9 Ghz, made available by the FCC. It also consolidated Nextel’s existing 800 Mhz into a non-interfering section of spectrum.

Sprint Nextel has been busy rebanding its 800 MHz spectrum, but only around 55 percent of all non-border 800 MHz public-safety licensees have finished their physical rebanding work, according to a filing the carrier made with the FCC. Sprint swapped out a swath of interfering 800 MHz Nextel licenses for new spectrum in the 1.9 GHz band.

But existing public service users and television stations at 2 GHz have to move out first, (using gear paid for by Sprint Nextel), before Sprint is able to move in and use their new spectrum.

The slow speed of the 800 MHz Transition and the 2 GHz Rebanding Project are preventing the utilization of Sprint’s 1.9 GHz service, AWS services, and MSS (satellite) frequencies. Broadcasters don’t have to pay a dime for their seven, 12 Mhz wide channels used by tv vans. Group owners, which own most local television stations, are above paying for their spectrum because they provide a “public service” .

Cellular broadband travels further at lower frequencies. Due to their difference in frequencies (700MHz vrs 2-3 GHz), their bandwidth capacities (22MHz vrs 120 MHz), and their spectrum utilization (paired or unpaired), the 700MHz LTE service from Verizon and AT&T will likely provide more universal coverage, but it would probably be slower and more expensive. That’s because more users will share a 700 MHz LTE tower with less “4G” bandwidth then Clear’s 2.6 GHz system.

WiMAX service from Sprint/Clear at 2.6GHz will likely be spottier, but faster and cheaper — without data caps. Combining both 700/800 MHz and 2.6 GHz for “4G” services would be ideal. Mobile could use 800 MHz while 2.6 GHz could replace DSL to the home – something cellular data is currently unable to do cost/effectively.

Related Dailywireless articles include; WiMAX: Good News, Bad News, Phoney Spectrum Scarcity, Public Safety: Show Us The Money, US Wireless Plan: In Cellcos We Trust, Clear: No Limits, WiMAX Forum: Not Dead Yet, Satellite Broadband Getting $100M Stimulus, FCC: Sat Freqs for 4G, Broadband Regulation Backlash, FCC Issues Inquiry on Broadband Regs, FCC Reports on Wireless Competition, The National Broadband Plan, National Broadband Plan Previewed, D-Block: It’s Done; Congress Pays, and The 700MHz Network: Who Pays?

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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