Sprint LTE: If Not When

A Sprint decision on whether to jump to LTE is likely in four to six months, reports Fierce Wireless. But it’s still a case of “if” rather then “when” it may move to LTE for its 4G service, reports Light Reading.

Sprint Senior VP of Networks, Bob Azzi, along with representatives from Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung provided a some additional details on Sprint’s Network Vision thing, the $4 billion to $5 billion network modernization project that Sprint is undertaking over the next three to five years.

LTE shares about 70 percent of its technology with WiMax, so it would be relatively easy for Sprint’s Network Vision partner to convert a future network upgrade to run both WiMax and LTE.

Sprint’s cellular service uses the 1900 MHz PCS band, and the carrier has a wholesale deal with Clearwire to use WiMAX in the 2.5 GHz band. But Sprint owns an iDEN network in the 800 MHz band and will begin phasing out the iDEN (Nextel) service in 2013.

Regarding iDEN, Azzi said that Sprint will deploy a CDMA-based PTT solution from Qualcomm which is an upgrade to the existing QChat product that Sprint deployed a few years ago. Azzi said that the original QChat did not work as well as iDEN and customer adoption rates were “short of what we had hoped for.” Part of the problem, according to Azzi, was that coverage was not as comprehensive as iDEN.

The upgrade project includes the deployment of CDMA 1x Advanced, which Azzi said will reduce the per-minute costs and provide an estimated 20 percent to 40 percent improvement in capacity and performance.

Clearwire may be cash poor, but it is spectrum rich, owning some 120 MHz of 2.6GHz spectrum in major cities throughout the United States.T-Mobile paid $4.2 billion for 20 Mhz of nationwide AWS spectrum (1700/2100 MHz) in 2006. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network uses that spectrum. Clearwire is currently conducting LTE tests in Phoenix, Arizona (see DW: Clearwire to Test LTE ). Verizon’s LTE uses 2×10 MHz channels.

Clearwire is testing 90Mbps LTE, using LTE in 2×10 MHz, 2×20 MHz and 1×20 Mhz (TDD) configurations using gear from Samsung and Huawei. During the trials, Clearwire will collaborate with Beceem and other partners to determine the best combined WiMAX/LTE configuration. Spectrum at 2.6GHz is available world-wide for 4G and gear is now available off the shelf.

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Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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