Sprint Nextel, the United States’ third-largest cellco by subscribers, has announced that it will spend as much as USD5 billion to upgrade its network over the next three to five years. The project, dubbed ‘Network Vision’ is expected to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network, channelling the carrier’s various bands of spectrum into a single compatible type of base station. Sprint currently uses separate platforms for its 800MHz and 1.9GHz bands, whilst its 4G mobile WiMAX network utilises spectrum in the 2.5GHz band under an agreement with fellow operator Clearwire. To accomplish this network convergence, Sprint has awarded contracts to three different equipment vendors – Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Samsung – all of whom will implement multi-mode technology to enhance service, create network flexibility and reduce operating costs. The arrangement between Sprint and the selected vendors also includes the purchase of hardware, software and associated services. Each vendor will be responsible for a specific set of geographical locations: Alcatel-Lucent will take charge in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC and Los Angeles; Ericsson will take charge in Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Kansas City and Dallas, whilst Samsung will focus on Chicago, Denver, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Seattle. Sprint said that it expects to save at least USD10 billion over the next seven years, thanks to decreased energy costs, roaming expenses and fewer cell sites.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse commented: ‘Improving the customer experience – business and consumer – is the motivating force behind these network improvements. We are very pleased with the results of our process which selected these three world-class partners. Each company realized the network proposal process was highly competitive, and each responded with innovative, cost-effective solutions. Network Vision builds on our legacy of wireless innovation and represents the next step in the evolution of our networks to best meet unprecedented growth in mobility services. We are well-positioned to take advantage of new technology, chipsets, devices and applications. Working with these three partners, we expect to deliver to our customers the most cutting-edge network capabilities available today and in the future’.
As part of its network strategy, Sprint has confirmed that it intends to phase out its Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (iDEN) cell sites, with the project slated to culminate in the complete closure of the network in 2013. From 2011 Sprint will start offering broadband-centric push-to-talk (PTT) applications on its Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network. Steve Elfman, president of Sprint’s network operations and wholesale arm, explained: ‘We’re seeing an increasing need from our push-to-talk customers for high-speed data capabilities. Marrying the industry’s only sub-second PTT call set-up with broadband data directly supports our customers’ needs and creates an unmatched offering in the market’.