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IPWireless disappointed by Sprint decision

Sprint Nextel’s decision to run with 802.16e WiMAX for its mobile broadband offering comes as a major blow to the proponents of rival technologies. One vendor which has expressed its disappointment at the decision is IPWireless, the UMTS TDD specialist which at one point looked like it was in the running for the deal.

Sprint rolled out a sizeable pilot UMTS TDD (TD-CDMA) network to paying subscribers across the Washington D.C. and Virginia areas in June last year. The move surprised some, given that Sprint had announced plans to merge its network with that of Nextel and migrate the two to 1x EV-DO Revision A in the 1.9GHz band, where it would compete against Verizon Wireless on the same platform.

But as Jon Hambidge, vice president of marketing for IPWireless pointed out at the time, “one asset Sprint Nextel does have is its swathe of 2.5GHz frequency, which offers serious capacity through the TDD network, because of better spectral efficiency when compared to EV-DO.” During the pilot, IPWireless claimed speeds of 2.9Mbps upstream and 5Mbps downstream.

But in the end it appears Sprint decision came down to financing.

“The Sprint decision was very disappointing – especially since we proved we are the best technology,” said Hambidge. “But it’s hard to compete with someone the size of Intel when they really need to win a piece of business.”

IPWireless said Sprint has made it quite clear that there are significant marketing dollars going into the WiMAX rollout.

Mike Roberts, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media said that “Sprint Nextel’s selection of Mobile WiMAX is a major blow for the vendors and technologies that weren’t selected, notably TD-CDMA from IP Wireless and Flash-OFDM from Qualcomm/Flarion.”

But Roberts added that IPWireless still has another major deal in the works in Japan, where it is likely to be a key supplier for IPMobile’s major TD-CDMA deployment, while Flarion’s FLASH-OFDM is now part of Qualcomm’s long-term move into OFDM technologies.

And just as Motorola and Samsung will be developing dual mode WiMAX/EV-DO devices for Sprint, Hambidge also foresees the potential for a combined TD-CDMA and EV-DO offering. IPWireless already has a TDD module available, which can be dropped onto a device board, becoming a layer of technology to feature alongside EV-DO for example.

“The rest of our business is going extremely well – especially the TDtv initiative,” said Hambidge, who hinted that some announcements would be made in Europe over the next few months. Orange for one is known to be trialling the vendor’s TDtv technology as well as TD-CDMA in France.


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