Sprint Unveils Faster Mobile Network to Take on Rivals

Sprint Corp., the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier, introduced a network upgrade to deliver faster speeds in about 100 cities over the next three years and better compete against AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

The service, called Sprint Spark, currently delivers speeds of up to 60 megabits per second and has the capability to surpass more than 2 gigabits per second, Sprint said. The technology, demonstrated yesterday at the company’s lab in Burlingame, California, is now available in five cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Tampa, Florida.

The Spark plan marks the first technology strategy announcement by Sprint since the company was purchased by SoftBank Corp. in July for $21.6 billion. Using Clearwire airwaves, also acquired by SoftBank in the deal, the plan aims to take advantage of the fact that Sprint now controls a broader swath of spectrum than its larger rivals.

Three new phones that are compatible with the network will be available next week with a total of six coming this year, Sprint Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse said in a press conference yesterday.

“They are putting their spectrum advantage to good use,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst at research firm Ovum, who attended the press conference.

As part of the upgrade plan, Sprint selected Alcatel-Lucent, Samsung Electronics Co. and Nokia Solutions and Networks, or NSN, to supply and manage the buildout. NSN displaced Ericsson AB as one of Sprint’s vendor partners in the Spark phase of the upgrade, said Bill White, a spokesman at Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint.

Higher Spending

NSN is also a supplier to SoftBank, Japan’s third-biggest mobile carrier.

For Sprint, which expects to spend $8 billion this year and next on capital expenses like network upgrades, the technology push could help in the long-term evolution, or LTE, race with competitors.

“Sprint needs a way to support the broadband demands that will keep its service compelling,” said Dawson. “My worry for Sprint is that it is hard to provide the high-speed performance they have in the labs to real people at all times and conditions.”

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