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Sprint will shut down its WiMAX network in just a little more than a year from now.
Rumors have circulated for several days that the specific date of the shutdown was known and, on Tuesday, Sprint confirmed the timing to Wireless Week.
“Sprint will cease operating the Sprint 4G WiMAX network on or about Nov. 6, 2015,” a Sprint rep told the publication.
That Sprint would end its WiMAX efforts, however, was announced in April, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Dogged by customer churn and tied to a 4G standard that has not gained mass acceptance, Sprint continues to replace WiMAX with LTE. Sprint decided on WiMAX first through a partnership with Clearwire Corp., and then through the acquisition of Clearwire.
According to a recent internal Sprint memo, the company won’t support 3G or 4G WiMAX services after November of next year, but dual-band WiMAX/3G devices still will work on its 3G network, according to reports. Sprint also intends to offer low- or no-cost LTE and Sprint Spark (the company’s tri-band LTE service) devices to impacted customers.
Eight years ago, just as the 4G wars were heating up, Sprint gambled on WiMAX over LTE. It soon became clear the move was a losing bet for the service provider, which then pinned its hopes – to the tune of $14.5 billion – on WiMAX via Clearwire Corp. That decision proved wrong as LTE, championed within the United States by large rivals AT&T and Verizon, and internationally by other big brands, gained majority adoption.
Both Sprint and Clearwire are transitioning to LTE as a result.
The effect of the WiMAX shutdown on MVNOs such as FreedomPop, which sell WiMAX-compatible devices, is not yet known.