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Sprint lays out wireless VoIP migration

Sprint officials said today that the carrier would center its future 3G migration path around 1X EV-DO technologies, committing the carrier to a future end-to-end VoIP network and officially discarding EV-DV from future consideration.

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Sprint Vice President of Technology Development Oliver Valente, in an interview with Telephony, said Sprint would look to deploy EV-DO Revision A upgrades over its now-being-built 3G EV-DO networks toward the end of 2006 and in early 2007, providing the critical high-speed uplink capacity and quality of service necessary to support an end-to-end VoIP over cellular deployment.

The announcement essentially confirms what most industry observers believed was a foregone conclusion. Sprint was one of several carriers that in its public statements have held out EV-DV as a possible migration path due to the technology's ability to carry both voice and data over the same channel. But over the last year, Valente said, Sprint has become convinced that the next revision of EV-DO will be capable of fully supporting packet voice. Sprint was also able to negotiate very favorable deals with its vendors. Valente said Sprint's EV-DO vendors Lucent Technologies, Motorola and Nortel Networks have agreed to supply the Rev. A upgrade under their current contracts. In December, Sprint announced separate contracts totaling $3 million with the three for EV-DO access gear, IP core upgrades and additional 1X base stations. Included in the contracts was also an IP Multimedia Subsystem core supplied by Lucent--the first announced in the U.S.

This time last year, Sprint's 3G plans weren't quite so clear as Sprint still maintained it would pursue EV-DV as a way to add broadband capacity to its 1X networks without sacrificing voice channels. Meanwhile Verizon Wireless had already cemented its commitment to an EV-DO migration path announcing its national rollout of the technology that January. By summer, Sprint had changed its mind, and at Supercomm in June, Sprint committed to its own nationwide EV-DO deployment.

Sprint hadn't yet rejected EV-DV entirely though in interviews in the fall, Sprint officials said they were still weighing the data and voice technology for future deployments. In December, however, when Sprint and Nextel announced their intention to merge, the carrier made its first indications it was leaving EV-DV to the wayside. At an investment community meeting that month, Sprint executives said they would launch new push-to-talk services over cellular on EV-DO rev. A platform by 2008.

Since then Sprint has accelerated its plans. Valente said Sprint wants to launch network trials of rev. A technology next year and begin rolling out networks in late 2006 and early 2007. There's even the possibility that a Rev. A rollout could exceed its current plans for its EV-DO footprint. It's EV-DO broadband data networks are designated for major markets where 80% to 90% of its data usage occurs, Valente said, but the voice capabilities of Rev. A make it applicable to Sprint's entire footprint.

"We're studying what kind of deployment plan we want, deciding whether [Rev. A] will be ubiquitous or follow the EV-DO model," Valente said.

Sprint is also very confident about the technology's VoIP capabilities. While many vendors believe that carriers will ease the new networks into VoIP, launching less QOS-critical services like video conferencing or push-to-talk, Valente said Sprint would most likely launch VoIP over the network as soon as it is available. Though Sprint claims to face little spectrum pressure and could continue to offer voice for its 1X channels without buying more licenses, Valente said that Sprint would want to take advantage of end-to-end VoIP immediately.

"We do have ample spectrum," Valente said. "Despite that, we wouldn't want to waste it when we have a much more efficient way of using it."

Sprint today also began selling Sierra Wireless 1X/1X EV-DO cards through its business channels. While customers would not have access to the EV-DO airwaves currently being turned up, they will work across Sprint's 1X network today and be ready for the launch of 3G services as soon as they become available.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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