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Sprint's Hesse: No Comment On Merger Reports

3/09/2011 10:07:31 AM Eastern
Palm Beach, Fla. - Sprint CEO Dan Hesse didn't comment on reports that his company is considering a merger with rival T-Mobile, but he did say Sprint foresees a long future with Clearwire, from which the company buys 4G Mobile WiMAX airtime on a wholesale basis.

At a Deutsche Bank Media and Telecom conference here, Hesse said Sprint is "very close" to resolving its dispute with Clearwire over wholesale pricing and that "every option" that Sprint has considered for its future "includes WiMAX and Clearwire." He also said "all scenarios" under consideration "include a substantial amount of Clearwire."

However, he noted, Sprint hasn't yet decided whether it will use WiMAX to expand to the two thirds of the country not serviced by Clearwire's WiMAX network, or even if will use WiMAX to expand Sprint's 4G capacity within existing WiMAX markets. Both Clearwire and Sprint, he reiterated, have been considering LTE for those roles.

Whatever technology Clearwire decides to use in the future for network expansion, Hesse noted, it would "make sense" for Clearwire to use new cell sites planned by Sprint as the hosts for Clearwire spectrum. When asked about the potential to host Lightsquared spectrum in the planned cell sites, Hesse called it "technically quite feasible to host other peoples' spectrum" but said Sprint also must consider the potential loss of customers to a rival network to weigh the benefits.

Under Sprint's previously announced plans to upgrade its network, the company plans to consolidate its separate CDMA and iDEN cell sites beginning in the second half and phase out iDEN service beginning in a few years.

By the middle of this year, Sprint wants "as good a feel" as possible for the types of spectrum it might host on its new cell sites to make its network rebuilding as economical as possible, Hesse said, though the carrier could still decide what spectrum to host after the buildout begins.

Hesse reiterated that Sprint will unveil its future 4G strategy in the middle of the year.
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