If Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) launches an LTE version of the iPhone later this year, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will sell the device to its customers, said Sprint Nextel CFO Joe Euteneuer.
Euteneuer refused to confirm whether Apple will offer an LTE-version of its iconic smartphone this year, as many expect, however he did say that Sprint has the same contract with Apple as Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) do. "We will not be disadvantaged," he said, adding that if Apple launches its next iPhone in the fall as it did this year, Sprint will have LTE service available in approximately all the nation's major markets, covering 100 million to 120 million POPs by year-end.
Euteneuer did not discuss whether Apple's next iPhone would support Sprint's planned LTE network. Apple's new LTE-capable iPad currently only supports LTE networks in the 700 MHz and 2100 MHz bands--Sprint plans to launch LTE service in its 1900 MHz band.
Euteneuer, who was speaking at the Barclays Capital, High Yield Bond and Syndicated Loan Conference, also noted that when Sprint launched its first WiMAX-capable phone, the HTC EVO, Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR)--Sprint's 4G network partner--had not launched all its mobile WiMAX markets. "But people still bought that device," Euteneuer said. "People like the iconic nature of the iPhone and the experience is good whether it's 3G or 4G."
Interestingly, Euteneuer also said Sprint is in discussions with Apple about its iPad. Currently, only Verizon and AT&T support Apple's iPad.
Euteneuer also said Sprint's LTE network will be about as fast as the LTE networks of Verizon and AT&T, even though Sprint does not have the same amount of spectrum. Sprint announced last year that it will launch LTE by mid-year using the G-Block of its 1900 MHz spectrum, where it has a 5x5 MHz block of spectrum. Verizon and AT&T both are launching LTE in the 700 MHz spectrum with mostly 10x10 MHz blocks. "The speed will be comparable because they are double our size," Euteneuer said, adding that since Verizon and AT&T are double the size of Sprint they need more spectrum to accommodate their subscribers.
Regarding spectrum, Euteneuer said that Sprint has enough spectrum with Clearwire to last until at least 2016. He said the company is always looking for more spectrum, and he noted that Sprint would make a good hosting partner for Dish Network. Dish currently holds 40 MHz of S-band spectrum and is seeking waivers from the FCC to use it for terrestrial mobile broadband. Dish has said it plans to deploy LTE Advanced network technology in that spectrum if it gets the necessary waivers.
Euteneuer noted that Sprint's Network Vision project is progressing as planned and that Sprint has had success getting the necessary permits to build additional tower sites. He also said that the company will decommission one-third of its iDEN sites this year. He said that Sprint has about 4 million postpaid subscribers using the iDEN network, and that the company is working hard to convert them to the company's CDMA-based push-to-talk offering.
Last fall Sprint launched its CDMA Direct Connect service, powered by a new solution from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), as part of its plan to migrate iDEN customers. Sprint said the new Direct Connect service, which rides on Sprint's 1900 MHz spectrum, offers improved in-building coverage and will triple the square-mile reach of its current iDEN-based PTT service. Specifically, Sprint said its new PTT offering will cover 2.7 million square miles and a population of 309 million (with the addition of 1XRTT and roaming coverage), up from the iDEN network's 908,370 square miles covering a population of 278 million.
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Article updated March 28 to correct the spelling of Joe Euteneuer's name.