Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sprint “Emergency Responder” proposal seems like a final attempt to save its iDen network

After Sprint found itself unable to find any buyers for its iDen network during this cloudy economic downturn, the company is apparently looking to the government for a piece of the $825 billion bailout pie. In a recent letter to the Obama transition team, Sprint proposed $2 billion to provide first responders with an emergency interoperable wireless communications network capable of responding to emergencies anywhere in the U.S. within four hours. This emergency responder team will use fleets of trucks equipped with satellite backhaul and pre-programmed push-to-talk mobile devices (Sprint’s iDen devices, of course!). Sprint also claims its National Emergency Response Teams (NERTs) will be equipped to provide 4G capability for emergency communications deployments, without mentioning what 4G technology is being leveraged. Hmmmm… the company no longer has direct control of its WiMAX assets (they are now wholesaling those services back from Clearwire).

A large problem with this proposal is a mobile broadband network won’t be provided, that is unless more money is shelled out. Moreover, it’s unclear how Sprint would deploy that capability. These first responders need this network to do their job better everyday, not just when a major disaster occurs. Bottom line: there are too many holes in this proposition. It looks like a mere attempt to save Sprint and its iDen network, not a solution to the problem at hand. Isn’t that how we got into this mess to begin with? Looks like Sprint should just put all of its eggs in the Palm basket. I think that would be a better bet for them.

1 comment:

John Taylor said...

Thanks for writing about our recommendation to the Obama Administration to create a National Emergency Response Team.

The idea behind this proposal to build a fleet of 100 SatCOLTs (Satelite Cell on Light Trucks) to be staged in approximately 40 warehouses around the country. This equipment could be activated and deployed in less than 4 hours to help first responders manage communications in the wake of a natural disaster like a hurricane or an accident like the crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The team would also be deployed to support special events like this week's Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.

We estimate the cost to create the team to be approximately $2 billion. It could be created in less than a year and would implement the key recommendations of both the 9-11 Commission and the FCC's Katrina Panel.

In comparision, some observers estimate that creating a wireless broadband network for first responders would cost $20 Billion. Once created, it would not be mobile like what we are proposing with the National Emergency Response Team. (The SatCOLTS we recommend using are small enough to travel on a C-130 plane.)

In our recommendation submitted to the Obama administration, we did not make any mention of what kind of technology the government should use. It could be GSM, CDMA or iDEN. We didn't say.

Also, I would be remiss not to point out that your characterization of the Nextel National Network is incorrect. The network is the number one choice for public safety and has been for many years. In fact, more than 3 million public safety organizations use Nextel -- more than any other wireless network. In addition, both the Nextel and Sprint wireless networks are performing at best ever levels.

That was the case here in Washington, DC where we supported communications for the Obama inauguration. Our data indicates that our Nextel customers (and Sprint customers, too) were extremely well served during this important moment in our country's history.

I'd welcome the chance to speak with you about our proposal and the health of our Nextel network. We think the idea is an important one worthy of discussion. If the government decides to pursue it, we would likely bid on the contract, but we haven't indicated if we would offer our Nextel or Sprint networks or partner with another organization to solve this very serious problem facing our country. In any case, your readers should know that the government would be purchasing the services of the winning company. The government would not be purchasing a network or related infrastructure.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me.


John Taylor /
Public Affairs
Sprint Nextel Corp