Sprint touts 4G's 'halo effect' on mobile data services

CHICAGO--Joking he would not comment on rumors of a possible acquisition by Deutsche Telekom or CEO Dan Hesse's budding acting career, Sprint Nextel's Keith Cowan instead focused on the operator's 4G efforts during his keynote appearance here at 4G World. Cowan, the carrier's president of strategic planning, corporate initiatives and CDMA, supplied little new information or insight into Sprint's 4G push, instead reiterating the operator's lead in deploying 4G services. He said Sprint would launch in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere next year.

"We're finding that 4G has a huge halo effect on our existing 3G business in terms of attracting new and existing customers," Cowan said. "Many of our 3G customers are upgrading to 4G plans. We're also seeing a lower churn rate on our dual 3G/4G customers than on our standalone 3G customers."

According to Cowan, Sprint is enjoying additional benefits from 4G: "Carrying data on 4G is less expensive than on 3G--over time, the cost of transmitting a gigabyte of data over 4G will ultimately be one-fifth the cost of transmitting a gig of data over 3G."

Cowan also addressed Sprint's role in Clearwire--the operator owns a 51. 1 percent stake in the wireless broadband Internet service provider, joined by cable firms Time Warner and Comcast (13.8 percent), Intel (13.2 percent), Google (4.1 percent) and other shareholders (17.8 percent). He said all the partners play a vital role in Clearwire's efforts: "Clearwire is a shared network company--it allows Sprint and our partners to focus on our core business of serving customers, while bringing to market 4G products and services."

Looking ahead, Cowan said 2010 should see the introduction of new embedded consumer electronics products, tri-mode devices and access solutions.

"This technology isn't vaporware," Cowan said. "It's reality."

Although Sprint, through Clearwire, is clearly ahead on the next-generation front, it won't be for long. AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA have both detailed plans to upgrade their networks to faster speeds (via HSPA 7.2 technology), while Verizon Wireless is in the midst of rolling out its initial LTE efforts.

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