Interestingly enough, when we were speaking to Sprint about the EVO 4G and mentioned “WiMax,” the third-largest carrier was quick to make sure we knew it was referring to it as “4G.” Now, we’re hearing rumblings that the company is evaluating switching from WiMax to Long-Term Evolution technology for its 4G network.
According to Light Reading, the company is sending out a request for proposal that evaluates LTE for its next-generation network.
“There’s nothing that prevents us from … moving to LTE,” said Kevin Packingham, senior VP of product and technology development at Sprint. “We’re doing a technology evaluation and making a decision on our core network and how we want to evolve that going forward.”
This doesn’t mean it will ditch WiMax, as Packingham said the two don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. It is a strong indicator that Sprint will move to LTE though, as that technology is quickly becoming the de-facto standard for 4G networks around the world. Verizon Wireless is making a big push for a 4G network based on LTE and it plans to have up to five 4G handsets by this time next year. AT&T, T-Mobile and multiple other carriers around the world have already committed to this tech, too.
It’s smart for Sprint to evaluate this technology, as its 4G infrastructure could be transitioned over relatively easily. Clearwire, which builds out Sprint’s 4G network, has said the switch to LTE would essentially be a software upgrade because the technologies are similar. Clearwire’s WiMax service currently covers about 120 million people and it has about only one million subscribers, so that could also ease some of the transition pains.
For consumers, this could be another case of early tech adopters getting burned because devices like the EVO 4G probably don’t have the radios to handle LTE. Any transition would take years though, so you’ll probably still get your money’s worth from that device.