Sprint will deploy LTE-Advanced in the first half of 2013

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CHICAGO--Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will deploy LTE-Advanced technology on its 800 MHz spectrum by the first half of 2013, a key executive said. Speaking at a breakfast meeting at the 4G World conference here, Sprint's vice president of network development and engineering, Iyad Tarazi, said that the company will deploy LTE-Advanced Release 10 in a 10x10 configuration by the first half of 2013. The company estimates that with LTE-Advanced it will be able to achieve 12-15 Mbps download speeds.

Tarazi also provided additional details on the company's extensive Network Vision upgrade, which will include the deployment of LTE using the company's 1900 MHz spectrum with a planned commercial launch of LTE by mid-2012. The company plans to have 250 million to 277 million POPs covered with LTE by the end of 2013. At that point, Tarazi said the company will have a bigger LTE footprint than its existing CDMA network.

Tarazi said that the company plans to launch at least 12 LTE devices next year and although Sprint will initially offer voice service over its CDMA 1X network and data over its LTE network, it will eventually migrate to Voice over LTE. Tarazi said Sprint will launch VoLTE devices in the first quarter of 2013.

Interestingly, Tarazi revealed that the company will end 2011 with about 20 percent of its traffic riding on Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) 4G WiMAX network, which Tarazi said Sprint Nextel will continue to support for many years because of its agreement with the wholesale provider. Clearwire has said it needs to raise between $150 million and $300 million for the maintenance of its existing WiMAX network and $600 million to begin deploying LTE-Advanced network technology.

Tarazi added that Sprint will continue to invest in its EV-DO network to support its existing 3G smartphone customers, including its new iPhone 4S subscribers. Part of that investment includes small cells. Tarazi said the company currently has more than 500,000 femtocells deployed and he expects that to grow to more than 1 million by the first half of 2013. In addition, he expects the company will deploy LTE picocells in 2012.

On the backhaul front, Tarazi said that the company currently uses Ethernet over leased fiber lines for its backhaul but is also deploying Ethernet microwave technology where leased lines are not available.

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