Sprint Nextel, Clearwire WiMAX network rollout faces legal challenge

Sprint Nextel, Clearwire WiMAX network rollout faces legal challenge

The Sprint Nextel and Clearwire plans to roll out a nationwide WiMAX network may have hit a snag with the filing this month of a patent-infringement lawsuit by Carollton, TX-based WiMAX provider Adaptix.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, claims Sprint Nextel and Clearwire are infringing on six of its patents. The company is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent Sprint Nextel and Clearwire from continuing the alleged infringement as well as damages and fees.

For broadcasters supplementing traditional electronic newsgathering (ENG) resources with new file-based systems, an injunction delaying the WiMAX network would be unwelcome news. Broadcasters have experimented with local WiMAX providers to determine the viability of the higher bandwidth technology for contribution of news files since at least 2006. One of the highest profile applications of WiMAX for news to date was done by KMGH-TV in Denver, which used WiMAX services from WMX Systems to upload HD reports from the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver at 1Mb/s.

Last week, Sprint made available a new Sprint 3G/4G U300 USB modem, manufactured by Franklin Wireless, supporting average download speeds of 2Mb/s to 4Mb/s. In September, the company launched its first 4G WiMAX service in Baltimore and announced plans to make 4G available in other U.S. markets in 2009.

At this point, it is unclear what the impact of the Adaptix lawsuit will be. However, a permanent injunction preventing Sprint Nextel and Clearwire from executing their WiMAX plans means broadcasters, at least for the time being, will continue to wait for a nationwide WiMAX network.