Hesse: Sprint has talked to Clearwire about hosting network traffic

Sprint Nextel's (NYSE:S) new Network Vision upgrade project, which the company plans to roll out in the second half of the year, will make it possible for the company to inexpensively host other carriers' traffic on its network--including Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) traffic. However, Sprint has not yet made any decisions about whether it will do so.

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston, Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse said that a hosting deal--in which another operator would provide Sprint with spectrum in return for being able to use the company's excess network capacity--could be an economical way to make more spectrum available to the company. "This could be a source of additional spectrum or capacity," Hesse said. "But we haven't made any decisions on hosting."

However, Hesse did acknowledge that Sprint has been talking to Clearwire about a network-hosting deal. "It also has been reported that there are some discussions between Clearwire and Sprint about the potential of Sprint hosting some spectrum. That's a potential that could happen. It's more economical for Clearwire to host it vs. building a separate network."

But Clearwire isn't the only potential hosting partner. There have been rumors that LightSquared may be planning to use Sprint's new, multi-mode base stations as part of its wholesale LTE network buildout in lieu of having Nokia Siemens Networks as its infrastructure partner.

Hesse wouldn't say whether Sprint has decided to deploy LTE as part of its Network Vision project. Instead, he said the company will provide additional details about its 4G plans mid-year.  

Network Vision is the network modernization project--worth up to $5 billion--that Sprint is undertaking over the next three to five years. Sprint currently runs an EV-DO network in the 1900 MHz PCS band, has a wholesale deal with Clearwire to use WiMAX in the 2.5 GHz band, and owns an iDEN network in the 800 MHz band. Sprint has said it will begin phasing out the iDEN network in 2013.

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