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Sprint Nextel agreed to unlock mobile cell phones

The carrier is enabling Sprint Nextel customers to unlock their phones after a California lawsuit.

Sprint Nextel has been the defendant in a class action lawsuit in California as a result of its practice of locking cell phones to prevent interested customers from using them with other carriers.

The international company has agreed to settle out of court by supplying a code to the complaining customers so that they can unlock their phones.

The benefits may be minimal due to the fact that Sprint CDMA technology is not used widely among carriers in the United States.

The settlement (which has yet to be signed by a judge) does not extend to Sprint digital phones using other technologies (such as GSM) that would transfer more widely to other carriers.

However, consumers are hoping that it will set a new direction for other US carriers to terminate the regular practice of locking their phones. T-Mobile is facing a similar suit but customers shouldn't get too hopeful yet. Part of the T-mobile suit is in relation to their exorbitant termination fees which arent a subject at hand in the Sprint case.

Sprint, whose operational headquarters is in Overland Park, has denied wrongdoing but said it agreed to settle the disputes to avoid the uncertainties and expense of litigation.
Sprint Nextel agreed to unlock mobile cell phone

Sprint Nextel, Clearwire Form WiMax Group with Google

Wed May 07, 2008 2:34 pm

In a major bet on WiMax wireless Internet, Sprint Nextel and Clearwire said today they would combine their networks in a new company with investment from Google, Intel and others.

The new company, which will retain Clearwire's name, will deploy a nationwide WiMax network, which promises faster speeds than the latest cellular networks for movies, games and other data services.

WiMax promises to blanket entire cities with Web access for laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices at fast speeds. It uses a licensed channel of radio spectrum and can transmit, according to its backers, to an area as much as 50 kilometers (30 miles) with a stronger signal than Wi-Fi and access faster than most current devices. It aims to have a service area covering as many as 140 million people in the United States by the end of 2010.

Sprint, which would otherwise have had to invest $5 billion on a solo WiMax network, will now inject WiMax assets valued at $7.4 billion into the venture, giving it 51 percent ownership.

"The power of the mobile Internet, which offers speed and mobility, home and away, on any device or screen, will fundamentally transform the communications landscape in our country," said Clearwire chairman Craig McCaw, who would become non-executive chairman of the firm to be based in Washington state.

"We believe that the new Clearwire will operate one of the fastest and most capable broadband wireless networks ever conceived, giving us the opportunity to return the US to a leadership position in the global wireless industry."

Rivals such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless have eschewed WiMax, opting instead for upgrades to their current wireless broadband networks and a future technology called Long Term Evolution. WiMax is available now and should give the new company a two-year head start in the so-called "fourth-generation," or 4G, telecommunications market.

Clearwire will sell WiMax services back to Sprint and the cable partners, through a "mobile virtual network operator," or MVNO, business model. There are no plans, however, to offer similar access to service providers not part of the joint venture.

The new Clearwire will cover a region with between 120 million and 140 million people in the US by the end of 2010. Upon completion of the deal, Sprint will own the largest stake in the new company with some 51 percent equity ownership. Clearwire shareholders will own around 27 percent and the new investors, as a group, will be acquiring an estimated 22 percent.

The deal, which has been approved by the boards of all companies involved, must be approved by Clearwire shareholders and regulatory agencies, but is expected to close during the fourth quarter. The company will apply for a Nasdaq listing under the ticker "CLWR" - the current symbol for Clearwire.