Sprint Nextel plans to make its long-awaited decision on a fourth-generation (4G) mobile communications technology by the end of August and start deploying the system in 2008, Chief Operating Officer Len Lauer said Friday at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Las Vegas.
The company holds licenses for radio spectrum in the 2.5GHz band that covers about 85 percent of the U.S. population and has publicly explored both WiMax and Flash-OFDM as technologies to supplement its current 3G network with a higher-speed mobile data service. Flash-OFDM, pioneered by Flarion, now a unit of Qualcomm, stands for fast low-latency access with seamless hand-off
orthogonal frequency division multiplex access.
Sprint aims to choose a technology “this summer,” Lauer said on the panel. The decision could come in June, July or August, he said in an interview after the event.
The industry needs to keep moving forward even though current 3G technologies, such as Sprint’s evolution-data optimized network, are doing a good job today, Lauer said during a keynote panel on the last day of the show. With the coming growth of applications such as streaming video, mobile operators eventually will run out of bandwidth, he said.
Lauer hopes mobile operators around the world can settle on one 4G technology. That would make it easier for consumer electronics makers to develop products and achieve low prices through economies of scale, he said.
The two other top executives on the panel saw less urgency for 4G.
“I think most of our customers would be satisfied if we did 3G well,” said Sanjiv Ahuja, chief executive officer (CEO) of U.K.-based international carrier Orange Group. The 3G networks aren’t even fully rolled out in some of the countries where Orange operates, he pointed out. Cingular Wireless LLC is putting 98 percent of its energy toward high-speed downlink packet access, the technology it is rolling out across metropolitan areas today, said Stan Sigman, president and CEO of Cingular.
Orange’s Ahuja downplayed the prospects for new competitors, such as Microsoft or Google, entering the market for mobile voice and data services. A new entrant would have to build a network, deliver call quality and customer service and subsidize handsets, all of which have required huge investment by the existing operators, he said.
“I don’t think it’s long-term sustainable,” Ahuja said.
-Stephen Lawson, IDG News Service
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