A decade ago, it was already clear that 3G speeds just weren’t going to cut it for the future of mobile communication, and carriers started looking at their options for high-speed service. While many of them were getting the ball rolling on LTE, Sprint decided to take things in a slightly different direction, and got its 4G service started with WiMAX. In the end, though, WiMAX became something of a hold-over, and a few years back we saw Sprint begin transitioning away from WiMAX and towards the LTE-based network it offers today. But WiMAX wasn’t quite gone for good, and Sprint’s been working to finally shutter the network and devote all its resources to LTE. It was planning to pull the plug this week, but a judge’s injunction now prevents Sprint from doing so.
The problem getting in the way of Sprint’s plans to kill WiMAX has been who’s still using it. Back in 2006, nonprofits Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen leased spectrum they held to WiMAX operator Clearwire in a deal that let them provide internet access to educational programs and social services in need.
But then Sprint bought Clearwire, and while it’s offered to update the deal with these nonprofits so they can transition over to LTE like the rest of us, the organizations claim that Sprint’s been trying to alter the terms of the agreement, while also failing to deliver reasonable bandwidth. That drove them to file suit against the carrier, and while the case is still pending, this new injunction prevents Sprint from turning off WiMAX until it’s resolved. Prior to the injunction, Sprint indented to end WiMAX for good tonight at midnight.
In a statement, Sprint writes, “We 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 [Educational Broadband Services] partners and our subscribers can use Sprint’s 4G LTE advanced broadband services as soon as possible.”