Sprint is holding a special event on Friday, October 7th to provide a "Strategy Update" on its future plans. There are plenty of strategies that need updating at Sprint, but most prominent among them is probably its 4G roadmap. Although Sprint was first out of the 4G gate with WiMAX, the accepted wisdom these days is that the carrier should start thinking about an LTE transition. Sprint has long pursued a somewhat complicated strategy of partnering with other companies to build out its wireless network instead of owning everything end-to-end, so the fact that it will need to hold a press conference to fully explain future moves is no surprise. We don't know exactly what Sprint will announce, but it's likely that it will involve both LightSquared and Clearwire.
If you're unfamiliar with those names and what they mean to Sprint, read on.
LightSquared is in the business of building wireless and satellite data networks and then selling network capacity to wireless carriers -- like Sprint. Last month, Sprint entered into an agreement with the company to "deploy and operate a nationwide LTE network." Under the plan, Sprint could then "purchase up to 50 percent of LightSquared's expected L-Band 4G capacity [...] should Sprint elect to incorporate the L-Band LTE capability as part of its 4G offering." It's possible that Sprint is going to do just that.
However, Sprint has a longstanding relationship with another company that provides network capacity, namely Clearwire and its WiMAX services. Clearwire also has a plan to deploy LTE. However, Clearwire's timeline is "subject to additional funding," money which Sprint might be tired of doling out. In fact, Clearwire has been in dire straits of late, partially because investors have noticed Sprint's newly cozy relationship with LightSquared. To complicate matters, there have been rumors that Sprint could just up and buy Clearwire in order to secure its 4G future.
So as we said, whatever Sprint's 4G future is and whichever company Sprint partners with, some explanation is definitely in order. In the meantime, there's no need to panic, Evo owners. It's incredibly unlikely that Sprint is going to suddenly drop WiMAX, leaving you with only 3G. Long term, though, it's looking ever more likely that LTE is in Sprint's future. As further evidence, Sprint has recently been touting new "Network Vision" multi-mode base stations; they are advanced cellular base stations capable of supporting multiple radio technologies in smaller, energy-efficient boxes. A single network box that's capable of working with EVDO, WiMAX, and LTE would be very handy for a company planning an LTE transition, no?
Or heck, maybe it's just that the iPhone is coming to Sprint. We'd be surprised if this was the event to announce it, but the past month of tech news has been crazy enough that anything could happen. Whatever the announcement turns out to be, we'll be there.