Sprint Nextel Tests Tech for 2.5-GHz Band

Sprint Nextel Corp. will test yet another transmission-technology candidate for its valuable 2.5-gigahertz spectrum, this time teaming up with IPWireless Inc. to trial an advanced version of the carrier’s resident code-division multiple-access (CDMA) cellular scheme.

Starting in March, Sprint Nextel will begin testing IPWireless’ “Long Term Evolution” (LTE) technology, the newest version of Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service Time Division Duplex-CDMA (UMTS TDD-CDMA). The acronym is a mouthful, but it basically is a unifying technology that welds together the two major cellular wireless platforms -- the GSM-centric UMTS and CDMA.

An outgrowth of that unifying technology, LTE can deliver speeds of 29 megabits per second, per base station, over two 5-megahertz channels. The trial will be staged in Washington, D.C., where Sprint Nextel already has a UMTS TDD-CDMA trial, also with IPWireless, under way.

Sprint Nextel lays claim to 2.5-GHz spectrum covering 80% of the U.S. market, and it has plans to use it for a future broadband-wireless service. That could come into play for cable operators, given the company’s joint-venture development deal with Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Bright House Communications and Cox Communications Inc.

LTE is a scheme that is still being defined by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) wireless world standards group. It will most likely be deployed by carriers in Europe and Asia in the 2.5-GHz band, as well, giving Sprint Nextel a potential link to offer the service worldwide through roaming agreements.

“Having a common platform with Europe and Asia in the 2.5-GHz band would bring a number of benefits,” Sprint Nextel chief technology officer Barry West said. “The potential of IPWireless’ solution to deliver a viable path to the Long Term Evolution of UMTS is relevant to our analysis of candidate technologies.”

But LTE is just one candidate Sprint Nextel is eyeing for the spectrum. It is also testing WiMAX technology through a partnership with Samsung Electronics America Inc.