Sprint Nextel will continue to invest in its current 3G network even as it builds out its 4G , long-term evolution high speed data network, officials announced at the annual CTIA-Wireless Association gathering in New Orleans Wednesday.
Bob Azzi, senior vice president of the carrier's wireless network, said the company would roll out LTE coverage in the relatively low 5 megahertz channels, but will offer reliable "handoff speeds" between 3G and 4G, according to media reports. Azzi said Sprint's 3G network will still do most of the work in the foreseeable future while LTE rolls out in an initial six cities for 15 devices.
"What we focus on is what the customers are really going to get in the network, and that's why we're really confident that this network will be really competitive," he was quoted as saying.
Azzi said the company would shut down its integrated digital enhanced network, acquired when it bought out Nextel in 2005, by the end of next year and reassign that spectrum to boost both its 3G and 4G networks.
In a separate address, Sprint CEO Daniel R. Hesse sounded a downbeat note about the state of the industry that clashed with the overall upbeat tone of the conference, The New York Times reported.
"The reputation of our industry has dropped to the lowest of any major industry," said Hesse as reported by the Times. "Even the cable and oil industries rate higher with consumers than we do. That's a bummer."
'Lose the Acronyms'
Technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told us that Sprint's vision for the future holds appeal for consumers.
"It is a pretty complex plan that basically means that Sprint customers will get phone services and data better, faster, and cheaper (both from a Sprint cost and user cost) than any other network," Enderle said. " If they can stop throwing around the confusing acronyms and names --LTE, WiMax, Wi-Fi , Ethernet-Based Backhaul, etc. -- and focus more on the experience I think customers will like these changes."
But Sprint must master the art of appealing to consumers with more direct benefits of switching from another carrier, Enderle said.
"If they continue to largely talk about the technology and the benefits of it, potential switchers will stay where they are and this will fail," he said. "They have also been slow on hot new phones, almost last with the iPhone, and they'll need to get hot phones more quickly (particularly unique hot phones) if they are going to drive a lot of change."
In other news, Sprint announced the May 18 availability of the Sierra Wireless Tri-Fi hotspot, the first device to support 3G, 4G LTE and WiMAX, for $99, after a $50 mail-in rebate, with a two-year data plan.