An interview by PCWorld held with Sprint at the Mobile World Congress show reveals Sprint may make the switchover from WiMAX technology to LTE for technical reasons in addition to other, more practical ones. Bob Azzi, the carrier's Senior VP of networks, said the spectrum it holds 120MHz of spectrum in the 1900 band across the US, which will turn into 14MHz in the 800MHz band after rebanding occurs. This only supports LTE networks and its majority stake in WiMAX partner Clearwire only gives it an "indirect ownership" of Clearwire's 2.5GHz spectrum.
Also, as the technologies are not too technically different, Sprint's infrastructure suppliers that include Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung and Ericsson can convert to the other by installing new baseband cards at Sprint network facilities and run a software upgrade.
Sprint needs to commit to one network or the other, though another possible solution may be to build a WiMAX-complementing LTE network. Handsets that can connect to it would need to have tri-band radios, Azzi said.
A switch to LTE may mean Sprint's 4G offering would use the same networks as competitors AT&T and Verizon and therefore support many of the same smartphones, including future 4G-capable iPhones.