Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is adding three tri-band LTE mobile broadband devices to its portfolio this summer, as the operator aims to leverage its FDD LTE deployments at 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz as well as partner Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) upcoming TD-LTE network at 2.5 GHz.
Sprint will offer the MiFi 500 LTE personal hotspot by Novatel Wireless, designed for CDMA/LTE/Wi-Fi connectivity. It will also introduce the international-capable Netgear Zing Mobile Hotspot with CDMA/LTE/GSM/Wi-Fi. The Zing device is also Sprint's first LCD touchscreen hotspot and first hotspot with both the device and packaging meeting Sprint's environmental specifications. In addition, Sprint will bring out the tri-band Netgear 341 USB Modem.
Sprint did not provide exact launch dates or pricing for the data devices. It said smartphones from Samsung and LG with tri-band LTE capability will be available to Sprint customers before the end of the year.
As part of its network modernization effort, dubbed Network Vision, Sprint has been deploying LTE at 1.9 GHz since last summer and now offers service in 88 markets, with another 170 on deck for launch in the coming months. The company will cease operations of the Nextel National Network June 30, freeing that 800 MHz spectrum for LTE deployment in the fourth quarter. Sprint already began deployment of CDMA voice on its 800 MHz spectrum in the first quarter.
WiMAX operator Clearwire is expected to launch TD-LTE in its 2.5 GHz spectrum later this year. The operator expects to have 2,000 TD-LTE sites completed by the middle of the year and 5,000 by the end of the year. In late April, Clearwire CTO John Saw said 1,600 TD-LTE sites were ready in terms of backhaul and just need to be connected to Sprint's core network.
According to Sprint, the upcoming launch of the tri-band devices is an integral part of its Network Vision effort. "These three devices from our partners at Novatel and Netgear provide a clear look at the benefits of consolidating networks and making the best use of our spectrum assets," said Steve Elfman, Sprint president of network operations and wholesale.
Sprint said recently that it plans to cover 200 million POPs with LTE by the end of this year, which is down from the company's initial target of 250 million POPs. Sprint also now expects to put the finishing touches on the effort by the middle of 2014; the company previously planned to finish the project by the first quarter of 2014.
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