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Worst of the Week: Sprint Nextel captures the 4G flag

And welcome to our Thursday column, Worst of the Week. There’s a lot of nutty stuff that goes on in this industry, so this column is a chance for us at to rant and rave about whatever rubs us the wrong way. We hope you enjoy it!
And without further ado:
So we’re in the middle of the race to 4G, and I for one am giddy with excitement. This race pits underdog Sprint Nextel against rival CDMA patron Verizon Wireless. Sprint Nextel definitely has the lead, thanks to its WiMAX plans with Clearwire, but – not to be outdone and never to be counted out – Verizon Wireless has put its LTE plans into super high-gear with hopes of commercially launching the technology by the end of next year.
Let the betting begin!
The issue crystallized for me when RCR Wireless News’ Allie Winter first reported that Sprint Nextel plans to brand its forthcoming WiMAX service as “Sprint 4G.” The carrier essentially ditched plans for a Xohm-branded WiMAX service in favor of a “4G” tag.
I think this was a shrewd move, since AT&T Mobility and Apple introduced the notion of “3G” to the country this summer through the introduction of the iPhone 3G.
Now, granted, both Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel had the opportunity to introduce the “3G” moniker before AT&T with their respective EV-DO network launches, but instead Verizon Wireless chose “BroadbandAccess” and Sprint Nextel chose “PowerVision.” Neither of these terms really stuck, as far as I can tell, and both sound way lame to me.
So, AT&T Mobility and Apple put a stake in the ground with “3G.” And Sprint Nextel is essentially one-upping them by going to “4G” with its nascent but imminent WiMAX effort.
Enter Verizon Wireless, which takes what seems to be a great amount of pride in being the first to introduce new applications and services – be it pro-rated ETFs, unlimited service plans, openly accessible networks or MediaFLO-based mobile TV. And I’m sure the fact that Sprint Nextel will be able to grab the “4G” branding high ground beginning this year is nagging like crazy at those lovable VZW chiefs.
Thus Verizon Wireless’ insistence in launching LTE by next year, a move that appears to require the carrier to hit the market with non-standard LTE kit. I’m just going to assume this won’t really bother Verizon Wireless though, based on the $12.7 billion in revenue it recorded during the past quarter. $12.7 billion!
So what’s the point? The point is that it seems Sprint Nextel – despite being the wireless industry’s favorite whipping boy for almost two years now – is set to usher in the era of “4G,” both in terms of technology and branding. Although this might not really be important to regular cellphoners, I suspect those concerned with such things – business and IT managers, early adopters and road warriors – are going to be keen to double their access speeds (from around 1 megabit per second on today’s 3G networks to the promised 2-4 Mbps on WiMAX).
Of course, Sprint Nextel’s 4G push faces a litany of complications, from financing to ensuring a steady flow of compatible devices. But that’s something for it to worry about next year.
For now I think it’s fine to acknowledge Sprint Nextel’s position at the front of the 4G race. The carrier could certainly use the morale boost.
OK! Enough of that.
Thanks for checking out this Worst of the Week column. And now, some extras:
–Strand Consults issued a piercing look at the iPhone phenomenon. Here’s my favorite bit: “It is far better business (to not be) an Apple and iPhone partner. Operators that choose not to carry iPhone products have an increased probability of serving their shareholders interests over those that move their management’s focus, subsidies, marketing and distribution power on a product that is as beautiful as Paris Hilton, but increases production costs and where there may not be a relationship between revenue and costs.” For those of us who pine for a Chuck Norris vs. Steve Jobs celebrity deathmatch, it’s worth reading.
–This just in: “AT&T Answers the Need for Speed in Maine.” Hilarious.
–So I received a press release touting a new Web site that sells holiday-themed ringtones for the astounding price of $4 each. From the press release: “If you’re having trouble getting in the Holiday Spirit this year, leave your worries behind and log onto and welcome in the magic and beauty of this very special Christmas season.” I’m left speechless, except to say that rape and pillage of the spirit of the holidays is now complete.
I welcome your comments. Please send me an e-mail at [email protected] Or, if you prefer, leave a comment in the space below.


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