It would appear that Sprint's WiMAX network doesn't have much time left. The company has revealed through an SEC filing that it will pull the plug on the network by the end of 2015, which falls in line with previous statements Sprint has made about the future of WiMAX. Now that we know WiMAX will soon be a thing of the past, Sprint has unsurprisingly shifted its focus to bolstering its Spark LTE service, which we imagine will make a fair few Sprint customers happy.
The company should have Spark LTE available in 100 new markets by the time 2016 rolls around, which should help offset the loss of 4G coverage in some areas with the shutdown of WiMAX. Dropping WiMAX means that the company will be decommissioning approximately 6,000 towers it has identified as redundant. As FireceWireless points out, however, that number could grow as the demise of WiMAX draws closer. In a previous SEC filing concerning the shutdown of its WiMAX network, Sprint said it planned on decommissioning 4,300 towers, which means the number has grown by around 1,700 in the time between then and now.
Sprint may have 55,000 towers at its disposal, but any way you slice it, 6,000 is still a lot to lose. The company plans to keep that number sitting around 55,000 though, bringing new towers online as it shuts down old ones. Hopefully that helps keep the impact of WiMAX's departure to minimum. Turning off that many towers is expected to cost the company somewhere in the range of $50 to $100 million.
Customers who currently rely on WiMAX service will be given "reasonable advanced notice" before the service becomes unavailable in their area, and once that happens, they'll get to pick from three options. They can simply carry on with the wireless plan they have without WiMAX functionality, deactivate their service without worrying about paying an early termination fee, or choose to be upgraded to Sprint's LTE network, which will net them a "free standard LTE-capable" device. These options sound fairly reasonable in terms of minimizing the number of people impacted, but we're sure there'll be at least a few who will be upset to see WiMAX go. Stay tuned.