Sprint says public safety will benefit from proposed WiMAX venture
Sprint Nextel said in a recent FCC filing that the new company being formed in partnership with Clearwire not only is expected to provide wireless broadband services via WiMAX technology at data speeds up to 6 Mb/s to American consumers but also to public-safety agencies and educational institutions.
Sprint is merging its Xohm WiMAX unit with Clearwire to form the new company, which is backed by $3.2 billion in new investment from Intel, Google, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Trilogy Equity Partners. Both Sprint and Clearwire are transferring their 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses to the new company—named Clearwire—a transaction that requires FCC approval, said Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat, who added that the “public interest” filing is a standard part of the transfer application process.
Sloat predicted that the capabilities of the new Clearwire’s 4G network would go well beyond wireless data devices such as PDAs. He envisions first responders using WiMAX-enabled video cameras to capture video at an incident and then transmit the data over this network back to a command center at much greater speeds than they can realize over their own infrastructure or that of other commercial providers. “It’s going to increase competition in the broadband arena,” Sloat said.
However, Sloat stressed that the new company has absolutely nothing to do with the proposed 700 MHz nationwide wireless broadband network that currently is in limbo, nor should it be viewed as any sort of alternative to that network. “There’s been some confusion about that,” he said.
In other news, Sprint this week made available in more than 40 U.S. markets four new Nextel Direct Connect handsets—the LG LX400, the Samsung Z400, and the Sanyo Pro-200 and Pro-700—that provide push-to-talk (P2T) connectivity using Qualcomm’s CDMA-based QChat technology. The handsets range in price from $49.99 to $99.00 after a $50 mail-in rebate.
Despite the move to enable P2T services over its CDMA network in these 40 markets, as well as the massive iDEN defections it has experienced—the carrier has lost more than 25% of its iDEN subscribers over the past year—Sprint remains committed to its legacy Nextel P2T network, Sloat said.
“This is just another way to serve them … that will allow them greater functionality and greater flexibility,” Sloat said. “If I’m a Direct Connect user, I don’t need to worry about whether I’m on iDEN or CDMA, I can be on either one.”
Indeed, Sprint hopes to leverage QChat to expand its Direct Connect customer base by giving CDMA customers access to P2T services they have been lacking while providing iDEN customers access to QChat-enabled services—such as call blocking and missed call notification—that currently are not available to them, Sloat said.