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Sprint Speeds Up Wireless Network

Sprint has awarded wireless equipment contracts totaling $3 billion to Lucent , Motorola and Nortel to better compete in a sector reshaped by acquisitions and spectrum swaps.

The multi-year renewals cover new switching and radio hardware and software for cell sites and deployment of Sprint's Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO) wireless high-speed data network deployment.

"While we looked at some [other vendors], the reality was that our current partners came through for us," Bob Azzi, Sprint's vice president of network engineering, told internetnews.com.

The Overland, Kan., carrier plans to provide EV-DO wireless service at peak data rates of up to 2.4 Mbps to major U.S. markets in 2005. Cities involved in the launch will likely be announced early next year.

Approximately $1 billion of the $3 billion will be used to upgrade Sprint's network to EV-DO technology, which will accelerate mobile device data speeds up to 10 times faster than on today's network.

The agreement includes options for upgrades to next-generation wireless broadband standards, which are still developing. "We're not at a point where we need to commit [to the next standard]," Azzi said. "These deals are great to get us into position."

The contracts are a boost for network gear makers who have been waiting for mobile carriers to overhaul their networks to handle faster speeds and more data.

Lucent, of Murray Hill, N.J., will upgrade existing base stations to enhance network capacity and deploy softswitches. Lucent said it expects to amass $1.5 billion over the life of the deal.

Cinglar, which gained spectrum space in its $41 billion acquisition of AT&T Wireless, recently announced that it will build a third-generation network in several U.S. markets starting next year.

The nation's largest mobile carrier didn't specify which cities would be first, saying only that it expects to offer 3G services to consumers and businesses in most major markets by the end of 2006.

Cingular is using Ericsson , Lucent and Siemens to develop and install infrastructure for the system.

Verizon Wireless has also moved aggressively to upgrade its wireless network in recent months. Lucent has also been a beneficiary of that buildout.



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