Sprint Nextel — the first national carrier to test, launch and market 4G technology — said March 25 it plans to extend its 2009 WiMax reach with deployments in nine cities. Sprint launched the nation’s first WiMax deployment in Baltimore in September 2008 before spinning off its WiMax Xohn division into Clearwire’s 4G operations.
Cities scheduled for Sprint’s next WiMax service — now simply known as Sprint 4G — include Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicago, Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Philadelphia and Seattle. New York, Washington, Boston and San Francisco are on Sprint’s 2010 buildout schedule.
Clearwire and Sprint Nextel are the only two U.S. carriers betting on WiMax to deliver 4G wireless broadband. Verizon Wireless and AT&T, the nation’s two largest carriers, are betting on a rival technology called LTE for their 4G networks. Both WiMax and LTE allow for the delivery of last-mile wireless broadband access, promising faster download speeds than current cellular networks.
The city deployments closely mirror Clearwire’s March 25 announcement that it plans to roll out 4G WiMax networks in eight cities in 2009 and add at least another four markets in 2010.
Clearwire rolled out a WiMax network in Portland, Ore. Comcast, which has invested $1 billion in the Clearwire venture, said March 17 it plans to buy Clearwire’s service in Portland and repackage it into a Comcast-branded product.
Sprint is expected to strike similar deals with its partner Clearwire.
The wholesale deal was established when Comcast invested in Clearwire as part of last year’s $14.5 billion merger between Clearwire and Sprint Nextel’s Xohm WiMax division. In addition to Comcast’s investment, the merger deal also included a combined $2.2 billion investment by Intel, Time Warner Cable, Google and Bright House Networks.
“The availability of Sprint 4G in more places this year and our aggressive expansion of Sprint 4G service demonstrates our commitment to provide 4G capabilities and devices nationwide for our business, consumer and government customers,” Todd Rowley, vice president of Sprint 4G, said in a statement. “These capabilities enable significantly enhanced performance and productivity for our customers.”
As Sprint transitions it customers from existing 2G and 3G services, Sprint is offering a 3G/4G USB modem. Sprint is also planning on introducing a single-mode 4G data card, embedded laptops, a small-office/home-office broadband modem and a tri-mode phone.
Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone, said in February it is field testing 4G LTE networks in Minneapolis, Minn.; Columbus, Ohio; and Northern New Jersey. In addition, testing is being conducted in Budapest, Dusseldorf and Madrid in Europe. According to Verizon Wireless, the field trials showed download rates of 50M- to 60M-bps peak speeds, though the company warned that actual average download results will not be determined until the commercial launch of the new network.
Verizon Wireless said once the initial LTE rollout is complete, plans are in place for aggressive 2010 deployment throughout Verizon Wireless’ entire network, including areas not currently covered by the existing Verizon Wireless footprint.