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Sprint Could Add WiMAX To Its Data Arsenal

Overland Park, Kan. — Sprint Nextel and Samsung will begin lab and field trials of 2.5GHz-band WiMAX wireless-broadband technology early next year in the first announced major test of the technology in the United States.

The trial will test products based on the 802.16e version of WiMAX, a fully mobile version that lets users roam between base stations without dropping data sessions in much the same way that cellular voice calls can be handed off from one cell site to another. The 802.16e is expected to be ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in the fourth quarter.

Average per user throughout is expected to be about 1Mbps, more than what’s available through current U.S. cellular networks, including current W-CDMA networks.

For the trials, Sprint will use a wireless modem and a cellular/WiMAX handset, Samsung said.

Sprint owns 2.5GHz spectrum in markets covering 85 percent of the population, the carrier said.

Saying that “a number of technology evaluations are underway” by Sprint, a spokesman explained that Sprint is committed to offering a variety of data offerings based on customer need. The company already offers Wi-Fi hot spot service in 19,000 locations, mostly through roaming agreements, and plans to expand that to 25,000 by year’s end.

Sprint has begun offering CDMA 1x EV-DO service in limited footprints in 75 markets, is expanding the footprints in those markets, and will have a 200-market rollout “substantially complete” by early 2006, the spokesman said. EV-DO offers average throughputs of 300Kbpa to 500Kbps.

Sprint also plans to offer EV-DO Revision A at an unspecified date to further accelerate CDMA 1x data speeds.

Each of the 802.16e and CDMA 1x technologies “focuses on different primary usage models,” Sprint said. CDMA 1x “has the highest optimization for voice connectivity and in-motion mobility,” whereas WiMAX “is designed as a high-throughput data access solution and will be best suited for applications requiring broadband connectivity speeds.”

WiMax is best-suited for high-data rate applications such as multimedia, streaming video and office applications, the company said.