Thursday, October 27, 2005

DoD Buying Sprint's iDEN Network

The PCS Intel Blog is running a story that indicates the Department of Defense will be buying Sprint's iDEN network as "the first phase of a national overhaul of its security framework in regards to communication." The gist is that the government will move much of its wireless communications onto one encrypted wireless network, and Sprint/Nextel customers will be issued dual-network CDMA/iDEN handsets, so that as iDEN becomes restricted, CDMA will take its place.

The report also claims that in exchange, Sprint will get plenty of spectrum in the 700 & 800Mhz bands for mobile Wimax broadband service. Keep in mind that if true, most of this wouldn't happen until around 2010, which roughly gels with Wimax analyst timeline predictions. The report claims the deal won't even be announced until 2007 or 2008.

This move makes this week's news of a Sprint co-branding wireless deal with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox slightly more interesting. The deal would give Sprint priority access to Wimax spectrum, letting those three cable giants offer re-branded Wimax to better compete with baby Bell Wimax offerings.

This whole scenario assumes a lot; at the forefront that mobile Wimax is a solid business model. If Wimax tanks however, the report seems to indicate that Sprint's deal with Uncle Sam allows them to instead grab ample 2.5 GHz spectrum, and deploy the most popular technology at the time (like WiBro).

Either way, the cable industry would be well positioned for wireless broadband competition.


The United States of America has come to a fundamental conclusion about its national communications infrastructure post-9/11 in regards to homeland security; it's broken. The Department of Defense, working with the FCC, DHS, the President, and Congress has brokered a framework agreement to purchase Sprint Nextel's iDEN network as the first phase of a national overhaul of its security framework in regards to communication.

The plan is simple; everyone involved in securing this nation will be on the same network. This network will be using an encrypted iDEN sequence, ensuring that all soldiers, first responders, and chain of command will be able to contact each other. This is especially in the event of a series of disasters in concert (say, for example, multiple terrorist attacks in multiple major metropolitan areas simultaneously).

We do not intend to disclose details of the inner-workings or how DoD iDEN will differ from the current iDEN. We will only say that the transition will be announced approximately two to three years from the deprecation date of iDEN at 2010. All Nextel customers will be issued dual-network CDMA/iDEN handsets, so that as iDEN is barred from consumer use, CDMA will take its place.

Sprint WiMax

We are finally ready to disclose Sprint's master plan for WiMax as well. Sprint intends to deploy a national, non-fixed WiMax network with as much, if not more coverage than the existing CDMA network. WiMax will effectively act as a replacement to CDMA data, providing FIOS-like speeds via massive towers that resemble TV towers in major cities.

This will enable Sprint to not only be a national ISP, but to remove common conceptions of fixed ISP. The WIMax modem technology Sprint is attempting to deploy will ensure that a broad range of WiMax devices will share an account... for example, WiMax deployments could fit in a PDA that would share bandwidth allocations with home internet that would share bandwidth allocations with your HDTV.

Sprint intends to compete directly with Cable, Satellite, ISPs, and traditional Wireless. By bundling all telecommunication services ever envisioned, Sprint will tackle everyone by offering everything.

Now, how is Sprint going to get there? Sprint has multiple hurdles it must cross in order to obtain this vision. First, Sprint must gain a WiMax standard. Sprint is doing this by attempting to force WiMax standards through as an open modem technology... one WiMax device is compatible with another, and is mobile from the start. If this fails, Sprint will most likely divert to the nearest derivative of WiMax, currently WiBro, though Flash-ODFM is an additional fallback should such subsequent technologies also fail.

But, Sprint was late to the WiMax game... Sprint lacks the licenses to deploy a national WiMax network on the critical 700 MHz band.

In comes the FCC. As a part of the transaction of iDEN to the federal government, Sprint will gain a blank check to rebuild the 700 and 800 MHz bands in their image, taking licenses as needed from whoever has them regardless of how fairly they gained them at FCC auction in the past. With Congress, the FCC, and the President in the loop, Forsee, Donahue, and Lauer will have no problem in gaining dominance of the WiMax and digital CDMA 800 MHz spectrum needed to reform technologies in their image.

The final step in this strategy is bandwidth. As you may know, local loops to existing cellular structure generally tap out at about 10 T1 lines per tower in a high traffic cell site. Sprint will form a network coalition to utilize dark fiber across the country to connect the city-wide WiMax towers whenever possible, feeding into Sprintlink backbones in order to ensure that the entire network is able to deliver above-DSL speeds to all customers at all times. Clearly, the goal is to make all metropolitan areas at least initially wired via fiber, and eventually, to create a national fiber optics "spine" that will connect every citizen wirelessly to a fiber optics internet directly.

The Rebels Fight Back

We are reporting all of this today, which we have known and been briefed on for an extremely long time, because we have been notified that Sprint's competition, namely WiMax ISP newcomers that you probably have never heard of before, have learned this information above within the past week.

In short, they are flying to Washington D.C. to fight back in Congress and with the FCC. Now aware to these plans, they see that all their technology investments will go to waste if the FCC choses to pull their 700 MHz licenses key to WiMax "in the public interest". While we love a good behind-the-scenes fight, we have been informed this news will become public domain later this week.

Remember, these "rebels" have nothing to lose, and they intend to scream from the highest mountains this in a war between Sprint and Sprint's hardware suppliers, and the rest of the WiMax forum.

Sprint also has options if their plan fails. We have obtained intelligence recently that Sprint will deploy on the 2.5 GHz spectrum if they are unable to obtain sufficient 700 MHz spectrum. However, the inherent advantages of 700 MHz spectrum over 2.5 GHz spectrum, combined with the added ability to strike a major blow to dissent from Sprint’s vision of WiMax makes it a battle well worth fighting to Sprint.

The PR Spin Rooms Are Spinning

"When the United States depends on the power and performance of Sprint's networks, then yes, I guess I am a Yes Man."
- President Bush, circa 2007

Cue the Sprint pin drop, "Sprint, yes you can", etc. Sprint is billing this strategy as one that will secure the nation, and deliver on the President's promise of national broadband internet by 2010. There are many more details that we are aware of, however, in the sake of national security we will not disclose them here. Again, it is important to note that what is disclosed here will become public domain within the week, however, this is clearly a win-win for all parties involved.

The Editorial

I'm sure many of you will ask my personal thoughts on this. Personally, I think it is the most amazing cooperation between corporate, technological, and political facets of society to-date. It will secure the country, and deliver something that no other technological society has ever offered; wireless broadband internet for everyone. It will ensure that every commander can communicate to every single person he or she is in command of, either through the chain of command or directly at any time. It will ensure that the United States will be the leader in wireless communication and national communications security for the next 25 years.

Bring it on.