According to the Wall Street Journal quoting 'people familiar with the matter,' Sprint Nextel Corp. is close to choosing Nokia as its third primary equipment provider for its U.S. next-gen wireless network. This summer Sprit picked Motorola Inc. and Samsung Electronics as its other two providers. It plans to spend $3b on the WiMax network over the next two years. WiMax technology allows for wireless access over far greater range than Wi-Fi, serving cities as opposed to cafes and airports, but is yet untested on a large scale. Sprint intends its project to be the largest WiMax project in the world, and aims to launch in trial markets by the end of 2007. Its coveted 'third partnership' was also pursued by Alcatel-Lucent and Nortel Networks Corp., who see the technology as a huge growth area. Joining with Sprint will likely require some Nokia investment: When Sprint announced its partnerships with Motorola and Samsung it said it included "commitments" from its partners "in the areas of market development, mobile WiMax devices and other contributions to Sprint Nextel's core business." The people said Sprint could announce its choice as early as next week, but that it could still fall apart. Some analysts have questioned the plan's feasibility, noting Sprint is already struggling with its existing two networks.
• Sources: Wall Street Journal
• Related commentary: Sprint Buyout Rumors Are False, Stock's Overpriced, Gauging WiMAX After the Dust Settles, Seeking Alpha WiMax Coverage. Conference call transcripts: Sprint Nextel Q3 2006, Nokia Q3 2006 has CEO Mike Zafirovski saying, "On WiMAX again there are obviously quite a few current carrier customers looking at us."
• Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Nokia Corp. (NOK), Motorola Inc. (MOT), Alcatel-Lucent ADR (ALU), Nortel Networks Corp. (NT)
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