While speaking at the Competitive Carriers Global Expo, Sprint’s senior vice president of networks Bob Azzi said that while the company has experienced success with its WiMAX handsets, it will not launch any additional WiMAX devices. The announcement comes after Sprint previously confirmed that it would continue to offer 4G WiMAX devices through 2012 and support the service through 2015. Instead, the company plans to focus on its Network Vision project and upcoming 4G LTE netowrk, Fierce Wireless reported on Thursday. “We are wrapping up final field integration tests,” Azzi said. “The technology works and delivers more benefits than we expected.” The executive noted that the company’s Network Vision project will result in a 50% reduction in cost-per-gigabyte to deliver data and cost-per-minute to deliver voice. “This is a huge benefit to us,” he said, adding that there are between 5,000 to 6,000 people devoted to the project, which is slated to be completed by the end of 2013. More →
Earlier today we gave you a glimpse at Sprint’s Overland Park campus, its Usability Lab, the Sprint Technology Integration Center and the carrier’s Mobile Technology Lab. Within that Mobile Technology Lab is a huge amount of fascinating equipment that we were not allowed to photograph. One box Sprint was happy to let us snap, however, was the Ericsson E-Node Base Transceiver System (BTS) pictured above. These devices find themselves at the center of Sprint’s forward-looking network efforts. Dubbed “Network Vision,” Sprint is in the process of upgrading and future-proofing its network — at least, to the extent a network can be future-proofed at this point. The E-Node BTS you see above and in the gallery below is an amazing advancement that will enable Sprint to realize this vision. The vertical “cards” you see pictured can be inserted and removed as easily as servers in a rack. Each one of these cards enables a network technology and is connected to an antenna cluster. So, for example, if Sprint was to reach a deal that would allow a partner to build out 4G LTE on Sprint’s network, Sprint engineers could simply add the appropriate LTE card to the BTS and off we go. Of course this is a bit oversimplified as there is plenty of intensive testing involved, but this is a monumental leap forward, and one that we hope will be adopted by other major carriers in the U.S. Sprint’s Network Vision program really is the future of the carrier’s network, and the technology and facilities behind it are incredible. Check out the gallery below for a closer look at the E-Node BTS.
Next up on our virtual tour of Sprint’s headquarters could very well be the most interesting facility yet — the Mobile Technology Lab, which is located on Sprint’s main campus here in Overland Park, Kansas. This massive facility houses 50,000 square feet of lab space, 360 tons of cooling equipment, and once a current upgrade project is completed it will contain a total of 15 miles of coaxial cable and 5 miles of fiber. Whereas the Sprint Technology Integration Center is focused on network testing, this monstrous lab focuses on device testing. The facility allows Sprint engineers to test nearly every imaginable aspect of a device that might concern Sprint, from battery and audio quality to monitoring and logging software events during a limitless number of usage cases. The photo tour begins with another RF chamber; this one is an anechoic isolation chamber that keeps all signals out to ensure that tests are not impacted by outside radio waves. The second room you see is actually a dual-walled isolation chamber that takes this concept a step further. The tests performed here can be so sensitive that even the monitoring equipment could ruin them. As a result, the test equipment is positioned outside the first door and then sealed off with the second. You’ll also see a set of three dials immediately after the double door chamber, and these actually control the amount of signal fed into the chamber. So, for example, Sprint engineers are able to see how devices operate with weak 3G signal, or even take performance readings as 4G signal drops and the device jumps to 3G. Finally, the gray head pictured is part of an audio quality test setup — we were not allowed to photograph the monitoring station — and the small room at the end is home to a station that tests devices’ ability to play various kinds of multimedia files. As we’re sure you’re beginning to understand at this point, handsets and other connected devices undergo extremely rigorous testing ahead of release… and the tastes you’re getting here are barely the tip of the iceberg.