ORLANDO, Fla.--Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is gearing up for its mid-year launch of LTE and will no longer introduce new WiMAX devices to its subscribers. Speaking at the Competitive Carriers Global Expo here today, Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, said that while the company experienced success with its WiMAX handsets, including the HTC Evo, Sprint will not launch any additional WiMAX devices.
Instead, Azzi said that Sprint is focused on its Network Vision project and is deploying multimodal equipment that includes LTE. The company announced last year that it will launch LTE Release 9 by mid-year using the G-Block of its 1900 MHz spectrum, where it has a 5x5 MHz block of spectrum. "We are wrapping up final field integration tests," Azzi said. "The technology works and delivers more benefits than we expected."
Earlier this year Sprint said that it intends to launch CDMA-LTE devices by mid-2012, with approximately 15 devices coming throughout the year--including handsets, tablets and data cards.
Azzi also said that the company will repurpose its 800 MHz spectrum for LTE as it migrates its iDEN customers off the 800 MHz spectrum and onto its CDMA Direct Connect service. Earlier this week Sprint CFO Joe Euteneuer said that the company will decommission one-third of its iDEN sites this year.
Interestingly, Azzi noted that the Network Vision project will result in a 50 percent reduction in cost per gigabyte to deliver data and also a 50 percent reduction in cost per minute to deliver voice. "This is a huge benefit to us," Azzi said. He added that there are between 5,000 to 6,000 people from Sprint and its various equipment vendors devoted to the Network Vision project.
Azzi also said that the company will have 12,000 cell sites equipped with the multimodal base stations by year-end and he estimated that by the end of 2013 the Network Vision program will be nearly complete.
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