Sprint Forced to Delay WiMAX Cutoff by Court - The UpStream

Sprint Forced to Delay WiMAX Cutoff by Court

posted Saturday Nov 7, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Sprint Forced to Delay WiMAX Cutoff by Court

As the US carriers began implementing 4G technologies, Sprint was first to market, but took a different path from the rest of the pack. While Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile all decided to go the GSM route with LTE, Sprint decided to stick with the technology that had served them well since the beginning, CDMA, opting for WiMAX technology. That choice ended up not sticking, and the company transitioned to LTE as well. Two years ago, though, Sprint purchased Clearwire (their WiMAX provider) in an attempt to keep their WiMAX network operational long enough to fulfill outstanding contracts.

In October of last year the company announced their intentions to shut down the WiMAX network on November 6, 2015. They gave everyone with a dog in the fight 13 months to make arrangements to transition off of the older technology onto LTE. The date was chosen because it put everyone with a WiMAX phone out of contract and eligible for a new device. It also gave larger network partners time to transition as well.

As it turns out, some organizations did not take the opportunity to prepare for the shutdown. In fact, a group of nonprofit organizations were caught so off-guard that they sued Sprint to prevent the shutdown. The group claimed that the technology shutdown violated their contract with Clearwire and they asked for an injunction to prevent the shutdown.

A Massachusetts Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction, preventing Sprint from ending service on their WiMAX network in certain areas used by the plaintiffs, Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen. The judge said the "plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits," leading to the injunction. It gives those involved an extra 90 days to try and solve the problem or further the lawsuit.

In this instance, they do seem to have a case. Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen have a 30 year contract with Clearwire for WiMAX coverage with unlimited data, but Sprint wants to enhance their LTE coverage using the current WiMAX spectrum and wants to throttle the speeds after 6GB. The groups said,

(It's a) near lethal blow to plaintiffs' non-profit users whether they be educational institutions, which educate children in traditional brick and mortar schools, or children who attend cyber schools because they do not have access to brick and mortar schools, or the senior or disabled person whose lifeline to medical care and other benefits is through the Internet.

Sprint responded saying,

We do hope that Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen will take this time to work cooperatively with Sprint to resolve the contract dispute. Our goal is to ensure that our EBS partners and our subscribers can use Sprint's best 4G LTE advanced broadband services as soon as possible.

It's likely that this will be resolved quickly one way or another, as Sprint's near- and long-term network upgrades depend on recapturing this spectrum, and will likely not let this sit for long.

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