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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