WiMax Still Likely to Drive Sprint Focus

Despite disappointing performance under CEO Gary Forsee, a WiMax network is still the goal for Sprint Nextel.

Despite the Oct. 8 dismissal of CEO Gary Forsee, Sprint Nextel is likely to push full speed ahead with its $5 billion plans to deploy a 4G WiMax network, according to Michael Gartenberg, vice president and research director at JupiterResearch.

"I think [Sprint Nextel] is going to continue pretty strongly with WiMax," Gartenberg said from New York. "We wont really know about this initiative for some time, but the timing certainly did not work out for Forsee."

Forsee took the helm as CEO in 2003 and directed Sprints $35 billion purchase of Nextel Communications in 2005. Plagued by interoperability issues between the networks of the two companies, the deal has not worked out as Sprint had hoped.

Forsee saw the combination of the two wireless carriers as a way to challenge AT&T and Verizons dominance in the cellular market. Instead, Sprint Nextel has lost customers. The company, based in Reston, Va., expects to report a net loss of approximately 337,000 subscribers in the third quarter.

To offset the loss of customers and revenue, Forsee made a big bet in 2006, committing $5 billion to build a nationwide WiMax network within three years. The companys deployment plans target a launch of the advanced wireless broadband services in trial markets by the end of 2007 with plans to deploy a network that reaches as many as 100 million people in 2008. Sprint plans to expand mobile WiMax network coverage thereafter.

The Sprint Nextel 4G mobility network will use the companys 2.5GHz spectrum holdings, which cover 85 percent of the households in the top 100 U.S. markets. No other wireless carrier has as much spectrum in a single band as Sprint Nextel.


Click here to read about why the FCC is pushing Sprint Nextel to fulfill its 800MHz rebanding obligation.

Forsees departure, though, has prompted media reports that Sprint Nextel may be cooling on the idea. But Gartenberg doesnt think so. "There were a lot of other things going on [with Forsees firing]," he said. "No doubt, he didnt leave to pursue other interests, but there was no one thing involved."

Sprint will work with Intel, Motorola and Samsung to incorporate WiMax technology for its advanced network and help make chip sets widely available for new consumer electronics devices. The company also announced in July that it is working with Google to bring WiMax mobile Internet customers search, interactive communications and social networking tools.

Sprint will provide open standard APIs to its partners and the Internet developer community to create customized products and services, which will eventually be available in a variety of WiMax devices such as connection cards, stand-alone modems, laptop computers. The services will also be available in consumer electronic devices such as personal media players, mobile Internet devices, gaming devices and phones.

According to Sprint, its WiMax service will eventually be available in vehicles for navigation information, news and entertainment.

"Theres certainly a strong future in WiMax for them, but they still have to bring products and services to market," Gartenberg said. "It may be a big hit, but its a little early to say how it will pay off for them."


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