The path to 4G is a tricky one as Sprint Nextel must figure out how to move its CDMA-based wireless business and customers to the 4G network envisioned by Clear, Sprint’s 51%-owned WiMAX joint venture with Clearwire and partners. The challenge is to strike the right balance between Sprint's immediate opportunities which remain with CDMA and the key growth areas for US wireless services that are mobile broadband (or 4G). WiMAX appears to have strong medium term potential and is worthy of Sprint's continued support but the network will need full commitment and time (a few years at least) to establish its brand with consumers. The issue for Sprint (and users) is the lack of a 4G migration path for users of the CDMA-based wireless. The solution is to enter into an MVNO deal with its own joint venture, offering dual-mode CDMA/WiMAX devices under the logo 'Sprint 4G'.
The first dual-mode modems could appear with the new year, enabling Sprint to begin marketing its mobile broadband services to its CDMA base early, before widespread WiMAX coverage and lack of migration path burns their customers. This will let Sprint establish its advanced credentials ahead of any LTE activities from competitors AT&T and Verizon. While a Sprint 4G brand, based on dual-mode will likely delay the new Clear offering, the company will benefit from serving the long term needs of its customers better. And for us folks who make a living off developing and manufacturing components for dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA radios, the concept also makes a lot of sense.