Sprint Nextel will begin offering a high-bandwidth wireless service to customers by the end of 2007 that will use WiMax technology and operate in the 2.5GHz band, where Sprint has extensive spectrum holdings.
The company expects the 4G service to reach 100 million people in the United States in 2008, according to a Sprint spokesperson. Sprint will keep and continue to develop its existing 3G network services.
Sprint was joined in the Aug. 8 announcement by Intel, Motorola and Samsung Telecommunications America, all of which will be developing infrastructure and end-user electronics to support the Sprint Nextel WiMax service.
“Its the first opportunity that weve had to develop technology that can deliver multimedia and broadband services at an affordable price,” said Barry West, chief technology officer and president of the new Sprint broadband group, the actual name of which is still being decided. “The combination of lots of spectrum in the 2.5GHz band, a broadband technology like mobile WiMax and access to expensive infrastructure means that we can deliver these services at a much lower cost with a much richer experience,” West told eWEEK.
West noted that Sprint has more spectrum available for this service than any other company in the United States. This will make it difficult for other carriers to compete with Sprint in this market, he said.
“Were delivering packets over the air that are enabling visual services, devices like MP3 players, and downloads of DVDs,” West said. He said he expects the first devices to be PCMCIA cards, with UMPCs (ultramobile PCs) and tablets with the technology appearing soon after that.
Motorolas Chief Strategy Officer Richard Nottenburg said his company is already testing the 4G hardware. “Well participate on the infrastructure and the mobile device side,” he said. Nottenburg said Motorolas 4G devices will initially support Sprints CDMA and iDEN protocols, but that the company will also be supporting GSM devices after that.
Motorola sees the Sprint 4G move as a benefit for his company, Nottenburg said. “We see a great opportunity to work with one of our existing customers,” he said. “We see an opportunity to build a new 4G service, which enables the ability to bring a variety of new services based on mobile Internet to a wide range of customers. Were involved in WiMax trials worldwide.”
Samsung Electronics executive Rick Svensson said his company will be bringing a number of products to the market that can use Sprints new 4G service. One of the first such products will be the Q1, Samsungs UMPC that was introduced this year, he said.
Many devices will come with the capability to use 4G technology but wont have it enabled until the consumer feels the need, Svensson added. At that point, he said, it will be a simple matter to activate the products. “Were building the infrastructure and the radios,” he said.
Svensson said Sprint is using a mobile Internet standard thats supported globally. Companies in Europe will probably also use the 2.5GHz band. “We have something like 30 trials under way,” he said.
Sprint has already developed some ideas on how the new service will be priced, West said, but he declined to reveal the details to eWEEK. However, Svensson said that all of the companies intend to move away from the subsidy model currently popular for cell phones.