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4G WiMax technology was 'right decision at the right time' for Sprint

Sprint Nextel Corp. was the first nationwide carrier to launch 4G WiMax technology -- going live in Baltimore in late 2008. Iyad Tarazi, vice president of network development, talked to SearchTelecom about Sprint's 2010 plans for WiMax.

Sprint Nextel Corp. was the first nationwide carrier to launch 4G WiMax technology -- going live in Baltimore in late 2008. Iyad Tarazi, vice president of network development, talked to SearchTelecom about Sprint's 2010 plans for WiMax.

What is Sprint expecting to accomplish with 4G WiMax technology by the end of the year?

Tarazi: We've announced that we're going to pursue 120 million populations to be covered by WiMax. That's what we're pursuing. We exited last year right around 35 million populations covered, and we continue to build out more markets with the Clearwire team. We have maintained higher average speeds on the WiMax network than 3G, and we want to maintain the speed and performance of the network.We are continuing to improve the network. We've launched and we will launch additional devices that will work on 4G, which can also interoperate with 3G networks.

In the end, the difference will be more around spectrum, network investment, time to market and the devices you put out. It'll be less about things that are esoteric, such as which [technology used].

Iyad Tarazi, Vice President of Network Development, Sprint Nextel Corp.

Why did Sprint choose 4G WiMax technology over Long-Term Evolution (LTE)?

Tarizi: It wasn't as big a decision criterion as it might seem. At the time when we started, the only technology that was available was WiMax, and it was well-suited for the spectrum that we have. The spectrum that we have can support multiple technologies, but it also can support TDD (time division duplexing) technologies. We also had some strategic partners that were very interested in helping us including people like Intel and Google. It was the right decision at the right time, and the technology so far has met all our expectations in terms of speed, efficiency, cost structure and maturity. It wasn't really a big decision at the time.

If LTE had been further along at the time, would you have chosen it instead?

Tarizi: I don't know. That's a bit too hypothetical. I can't answer that.

With most other major carriers gunning for LTE, how does Sprint expect to compete?

Tarizi: In essence, there's very little difference between WiMax and LTE in terms of the way the technology is constructed, the way the technology uses the spectrum and the performance expectations of the network. From a pure network perspective, you're able to use both technologies to create the speeds and the capabilities customers are looking for. That is especially true when you look at multi-modal devices, which is most of what you see right now. People are looking for better coverage, quality and reliability of a nationwide 3G [network]…. As we approach over time … a world that's dominated by only 4G technology … then I think it would begin to become a differentiator…. So far, WiMax continues to have a robust and healthy ecosystem.

What is Sprint expecting to accomplish with 4G WiMax technology by the end of the year?

Tarizi: We've announced that we're going to pursue 120 million [populations to be] covered by WiMax. That's what we're pursuing. We exited last year right around 35 million [populations] covered, and we continue to build out more markets with the Clearwire team…. We have maintained higher [average] speeds [on] the [WiMax] network than 3G, and we want to maintain the speed and performance of the network. [We are] continuing to improve the network. We've launched and we will launch additional devices that will work on 4G, [which can] also interoperate with 3G networks. Why did Sprint choose 4G WiMax technology over Long-Term Evolution (LTE)?

It wasn't as big a decision criterion as it might seem. At the time when we started … the only technology that was available was WiMax, and it was well-suited for the spectrum that we have. The spectrum that we have can support multiple technologies, but it also can support TDD [time division duplexing] technologies.… We also had some strategic partners that were very interested in helping us … including people like Intel and Google. It was the right decision at the right time, and the technology so far has met all our expectations in terms of speed, efficiency, cost structure and maturity.… It wasn't really a big decision at the time.

 You mentioned that Sprint's spectrum is well-suited for 4G WiMax technology. How so?

Tarizi: Our spectrum at 2.5 [GHz] can support multiple technologies. There are two sets of technologies used -- TDD and FDD [frequency division domain]. It's two different ways of utilizing the same spectrum. In time domain, you're splitting your time between sending and receiving data…. On the frequency domain, you're actually splitting the spectrum. Some frequencies are used for sending and some are used for receiving…. So a technology that is built for TDD would be able to take advantage of the entire spectrum. The technology that was only built for frequency domain would be less suitable for the same spectrum. Although we have plenty of spectrum ... we have more spectrum that could be allocated to the time domain technology, which is what WiMax is built for. 

More on 4G WiMax technology

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With Sprint's big bet on 4G WiMax technology, timing may be everything

Do you have any network needs that vendors aren't meeting yet?

Tarizi: There is enough development for the need that we have now. Just like the carrier community, the vendor community is looking to rationalize the different areas we're working in…. I expect more rationalization as far as limiting the number of boxes … in the network. In essence, I think we have more things than we need in the network today. Do you think 4G WiMax technology and LTE technology can coexist peacefully, or does one have to 'win'?
I think they will coexist…. We operate under a lot more than two [technologies] in the 3G world…. We have a lot of different variations right now…. In the end, the difference will be more around spectrum, network investment, time to market and the devices you put out. It'll be less about things that are esoteric, such as which [standard you use].

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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