Sprint Stretching for WiMax

A new tech push could buoy suppliers Nortel and Motorola.
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Sprint (S) - Get Report wants investors to look beyond its Nextel integration woes and focus on even bigger wireless plans.

The Reston, Va., telco is set to unveil a national wireless broadband project using not-fully-standardized technology known as Worldwide Interoperability of Microwave Access, or WiMax, to provide fast mobile Net connections.

Using licensed spectrum in the 2.5 gigahertz range, Sprint will have the ability to cover about 90% of the U.S. markets, say analysts. The company is expected to spend about $4.5 billion on network construction over the next two years or more, analysts say.

Sprint's ambitious endorsement of a much-hyped emerging technology should help divert the Street's attention from the company's dismal second-quarter performance, at least for the moment.

"One bad quarter isn't the end of the world," says Ovum analyst Roger Entner. "Wall Street sees things from a short-term perspective, but a CEO has to look at the long term."

WiMax is expected to take over where WiFi left off. The technology is said to offer fast mobile connections over a much broader territory than WiFi, which is limited to relatively small "hot spots."

Sprint's plan was certainly seen by industry observers as good news for WiMax gear suppliers like

Motorola

(MOT)

,

Nortel

(NT)

and

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

. Presumably, prospects for some fat WiMax contracts will drive vendors toward a common solution on Sprint's behalf. This is especially attractive for outfits like Motorola and Nortel, which largely missed out on the industry's 3G expansion.

The only mobile tech infrastructure shop that doesn't come out shining perhaps is wireless standard bearer

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

. The San Diego wireless giant had placed its broadband bets on rival approaches like evolution data only, or EV-DO, and flash orthogonal frequency division multiplexing, or OFDM.

But there's nothing to Sprint's plan that will immediately imperil Qualcomm, says JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum in a note Tuesday.

"While this would be a negative for Qualcomm, the possibility remains remote and we would not expect these developments to occur, if they do, for at least two-to-three years," writes Gelblum, who rates Motorola buy and Qualcomm neutral.

Qualcomm shares fell 37 cents to $34.23; Motorola was up 6 cents to $23.16. Meanwhile, Sprint fell 17 cents to $16.77 in midday trading Tuesday.