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Sprint to outsource network operations

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Sprint has confirmed it will outsource the running of its US CDMA network to Ericsson, but is keeping WiMAX to itself while admitting that all its PDA-class devices will be able to fall back on Wi-Fi when all else fails.

The outsourcing agreement involves transferring 6,000 staff to Ericsson, who will take responsibility for the day-to-day running of Sprint's CDMA, iDEN and wired networks for the next seven years - at a cost slightly south of $5bn - while Sprint tries to migrate the users onto its WiMAX network.

Sprint retains ownership of all the base stations, and the operating frequencies, and still gets to select technology and vendors - though selecting Ericsson kit will obviously be encouraged.

The 6,000 employees will be based out of Overland Park, Kansas, and both companies have stressed that they'll be no forced redundancies as a result of the deal.

Sprint's WiMAX offering is also not managed in house: it's run by Clearwire. Sprint is a significant investor in Clearwire, but the arrangement spares the company the complexity of running a network while trying to concentrate on selling stuff to punters.

But despite the commitment to WiMAX Sprint still reckons that Wi-Fi is a critical component of modern telephony, with their business product marketing director admitting that "It is now a requirement for all our PDA equipment suppliers to include WiFi", as reported by Fierce Wireless.

Outsourcing the running of the network makes quite a bit of sense, Ericsson knows a lot about how to run networks and such deals are well known outside the USA, but it does beg the question of what to call Spring and its ilk when they can no longer be considered "network operators" as such. ®

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