Sprint's first LTE handsets coming in second half of 2012

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) intends to launch its first LTE handsets running on its forthcoming FDD-LTE network sometime in the second half of 2012, according to Sprint CFO Joseph Euteneuer.

In a wide-ranging interview at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, Euteneuer also said Sprint's LTE network will be "very competitive to what's out in the marketplace" in terms of LTE network speeds when the company does launch LTE service by mid-2012. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) have said that their LTE networks deliver average downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps.

Sprint plans to first launch FDD-LTE on its 1900 MHz spectrum next year as part of its Network Vision network modernization project. Euteneuer also said that starting in 2012 Sprint will deploy LTE service on its 800 MHz spectrum as it moves iDEN customers on that spectrum to Sprint's CDMA push-to-talk service. Euteneuer said Sprint just deployed its first multi-mode base station as part of its Network Vision project, which is being constructed by Alcatel-Lucent (NASDAQ:ALU), Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) and Samsung.

Euteneuer also touched on the agreements Sprint recently inked with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR) on WiMAX and TDD-LTE. Under the terms, Sprint will pay Clearwire up to $350 million in a series of prepayments over a period of up to two years for LTE capacity if Clearwire achieves certain buildout targets and network specifications by June 2013. Euteneuer said those buildout targets are going to be for hotspots across the country where both companies are seeing high demand. "We are asking them to build out initially to only a portion of what they cover," he said. "It is not the full network that they have to date."

The Sprint CFO also touched on Verizon's announcement that it will buy SpectrumCo.'s AWS spectrum for $3.6 billion, and called it "a good deal" for Verizon. "It is a set of spectrum that was an option for us that is now off the table," he said, in terms of spectrum that Sprint might host via Network Vision. However, he said Sprint has "plenty of other options" including Dish Network, which plans to deploy LTE-Advanced services on its S-band 2 GHz spectrum. Sprint and Dish recently agreed on terms to get users off that spectrum, which Dish hopes to acquire from DSBD North America and TerreStar Networks. In November Dish paid Sprint $114 million to settle the dispute.

"It was great for both of us," Euteneuer said of working with Dish. "I think our relationships have been good with the Dish people and we look forward to continued opportunities to deal with them."

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