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Sprint`s 4G predicament


Sprint promised its 4G strategy would be made clear this summer, but the plans revealed so far—partnering with LightSquared and Clearwire’s partial and unfunded long-term evolution (LTE) build—only raise more questions.

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Sprint has a lot of 4G pieces in play, and, given its new Network Vision architecture and majority stake in spectrum-rich Clearwire, it has the potential to become the most powerful 4G operator in the country. But Sprint’s individual strategies either seem to be half-formed or uncertain. As it stands today, Sprint is destined to remain on the same course it set in 2010: a WiMAX operator with no definitive plans for a nationwide LTE network.

While Sprint could make a legitimate go of it with WiMAX, that strategy has stalled, too. Clearwire doesn’t have the funding to build its WiMAX network beyond its current 130 million-pops footprint, and considering its new found love for LTE it probably doesn’t have the inclination (CP: As the 4G road forks, Clearwire takes both paths).

There are a few scenarios that would give Sprint a nationwide 4G network by 2013 or 2014, but they either require a leap of fate or more direct action on Sprint’s part—a commitment it seems disinclined to make. Let’s take a look at LightSquared first.

Next: Sprint’s Lightsquared 4G Play


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