Sprint Goes Google-y for WiMax Portal

Sprint Nextel inked a deal with Google to provide a mobile-Internet portal for the carrier’s broadband-wireless WiMax service, which it expects to start offering commercially next spring.

For Sprint’s WiMax service, Google will provide its suite of communications applications, including Gmail e-mail and Google Talk instant-messaging, as well as its trademark search engine. Sprint and Google said they will also develop new location-based services for consumers, businesses and government customers.

"Google and Sprint will optimize the Internet experience for the digital lifestyle," Sprint 4G Mobile Broadband president Barry West said in a prepared statement. "This collaboration brings what will be the best mobile-Internet network together with the leading Internet-search company."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Google itself has designs on becoming a wireless-service provider: Last Friday, the Internet-search kingpin committed to spending at least $4.6 billion in the Federal Communications Commission’s pending federal auction of the 700-megahertz-band spectrum if the agency agrees to adopt certain open-network conditions.

Meanwhile, Sprint last week announced a 20-year deal with Clearwire to jointly build out a WiMax network across the United States, eventually providing coverage to 300 million people. The companies’ WiMax mobile-broadband network will operate in the 2.5-gigahertz spectrum.

Sprint plans to test WiMax service in the Chicago, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas by the end of 2007, with commercial service expected to be available in a number of markets starting in April 2008. Sprint and Clearwire plan to have deployed their WiMax networks to service 100 million people by year-end 2008.

In addition to Google’s applications, Sprint said its WiMax services will provide multimedia including music, video, TV and on-demand products. Eventually, according to Sprint, WiMax service will be available in vehicles for navigation information, news and entertainment.