Rumor Mill: Sprint testing FDD-LTE in 2011

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) plans to test FDD-LTE at some point in 2011 as part of its network modernization efforts, according to a Light Reading report.

The report, which did not cite its sources, said that the carrier will test LTE next year as part of its plans to deploy a new multi-mode base station, which has been dubbed "Project Leapfrog." Sprint, which holds a 54 percent interest in mobile WiMAX provider Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) has indicated in the past that LTE could be a part of its technology mix. Clearwire plans to reach 80 markets and 120 million POPs by year-end; Sprint resells Clearwire's service under the Sprint 4G brand.

Sprint spokeswoman Stephanie Vinge-Walsh declined to comment on the report, and told FierceWireless that it was merely rumor and speculation.

Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, said last month that the company plans to deploy new multi-mode base stations that give Sprint the ability to deploy CDMA 1X for voice and data, EV-DO, WiMAX and even LTE via a software upgrade, which Azzi said could be added at a low incremental cost.

"We know the technology changes," Azzi told BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk. "And this network architecture gives us the flexibility to adapt and change as we need to, as the marketplace and our strategic choices dictate." The carrier is currently evaluating final bids from six vendors on a massive network modernization project that  the company has said will decrease the number of its cell sites from around 66,000 to 46,000.

Clearwire Chief Commercial Officer Mike Sievert said Wednesday at the 4G World conference in Chicago that the operator has recorded peak download speeds of 90 Mbps in its initial testing of LTE technology in Phoenix. The results are notable in that the carrier currently advertises that its WiMAX network provides download speeds of 3-6 Mbps, with bursts of 10 Mbps. Clearwire first announced in August that it was going to conduct LTE tests.

Sievert said in Phoenix Clearwire is testing a WiMAX network alongside LTE network technology running in both 10x10 MHz and 20x20 MHz network configurations via equipment from Samsung and Huawei. He said Clearwire recorded download speeds of 50 Mbps in the 10x10 configuration, and 90 Mbps downloads (and around 30 Mbps uploads) in the 20x20 configuration.

For more:
- see this Light Reading article

Related Articles:
Sprint: Network upgrade will help migrate iDEN customers to CDMA
Sprint may add LTE to 4G arsenal
Sprint assessing final bids for network modernization endeavor
Clearwire details results of initial LTE testing
Clearwire to begin testing LTE, promises speeds of 20-70 Mbps