updated 12:30 pm EDT, Sun October 31, 2010
Sprint CEO says WiMAX its only 4G choice
Sprint chief Dan Hesse followed up on earlier comments with a new discussion emphasizing the company's current 4G plans. He explained to GigaOM that, despite toying with LTE, the company's network would use WiMAX "full stop." Tests with the other format were in case Sprint needed to support multi-mode phones that supported both formats.
The decision to choose WiMAX over the more broadly-accepted LTE was a matter of speed, Hesse explained. Getting it first meant it would have an established network earlier. Verizon isn't due to switch on its 4G network until the end of this year, while AT&T and T-Mobile won't do the same until sometime in 2011.
"When we had the opportunity to move into 4G, WiMAX was the only 4G interface, and it was perfect with the spectrum we owned," the CEO said. "We moved to establish the network because we didn't want to wait, and we believe that being first to the market is an advantage."
He also dismissed prospects of Clearwire working with T-Mobile in the wake of Sprint executives leaving Clearwire's board. Sprint still owned a 54 percent stake in Clearwire and wasn't going to see its WiMAX partner jump to T-Mobile in the near future.
The emphasis on WiMAX has been a gamble for Sprint. It has given the carrier advanced phones like the HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic 4G roughly a year before competitors could have their own 4G phones, but the move may lock Sprint out of using phones similar to many of its competitors. Without LTE, it won't have access to the same 4G phones as on most other American and international carriers. It could particularly hurt long-term prospects for the iPhone; the anticipated CDMA model would work on Sprint as-is, but Apple is more likely to embrace LTE since it would cover a much wider range of carriers.