Sprint Nextel may be considering a hosting deal that could help it and its close partner Clearwire deploy a 4G LTE network to compete with rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T.
Earlier this week, the blog Fierce Wireless reported that Sprint's CEO Dan Hesse said at a JP Morgan conference in Boston that Sprint may consider striking hosting deals that would allow other wireless providers to use some of Sprint's excess network capacity. In exchange, Sprint would get access to additional spectrum.
"This could be a source of additional spectrum or capacity," the blog quoted Hesse as saying. "But we haven't made any decisions on hosting."
The blog went on to report that Hesse acknowledged that Sprint has been talking to Clearwire about a network hosting deal.
"It also has been reported that there are some discussions between Clearwire and Sprint about the potential of Sprint hosting some spectrum. That's a potential that could happen. It's more economical for Clearwire to host it vs. building a separate network," Hesse was quoted as saying.
Sprint may be talking to other companies about hosting services and sharing spectrum. The Wall Street Journal and blog BroadbandReports have also reported recently that Sprint has been talking to LightSquared, which is building a nationwide LTE network, about a hosting arrangement as well.
Sprint has been upgrading its network as part of a multibillion-dollar effort called Network Vision, which will give it the ability to inexpensively host other carrier's traffic on its own network. The project, which will cost Sprint about $5 billion over the next three to five years, is part of Sprint's effort to retire its old Nextel iDEN network and use that capacity for its CDMA and EV-DO networks.
Sprint has not said whether the new upgrade will also include plans to deploy LTE, the 4G wireless technology being used by most of the world's largest wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon Wireless. And Fierce Wireless noted that Hesse did not comment on Sprint's LTE plans this week at the conference.
Currently, Sprint uses Clearwire's 4G network that is based on a 4G wireless technology called WiMax. As LTE becomes the dominant technology for the next generation of wireless, it could be a major barrier for Sprint's future if it cannot come up with an LTE strategy of its own. Sprint and Clearwire could team up in the future to forge a path toward LTE and a hosting deal between the companies could pave the way toward an LTE overlay network that would be able to compete against Verizon Wireless and AT&T. While neither company has stated any plans to move toward LTE, executives from the companies have stated publicly that they do not view WiMax as the only answer for a 4G network. And they have said they're willing to look at other technologies, such as LTE.