Nokia Joins Sprint’s WiMAX Gear Group

Nokia managed to squeeze into the biggest WiMAX buildout around where Sprint could spend almost $3 billion dollars on a WiMAX network. The companies said this morning that Nokia will provide infrastructure and devices for Sprint’s network, including WiMAX base transceiver stations, and WiMAX-enabled mobile devices like multimedia computers and Internet tablets. We mentioned the possibility that Nokia had made it into the WiMAX gear group when the WSJ reported on the preliminary talks.

This is a win for Nokia which has been desperately trying to break into the CDMA camp. Nokia will also provide co-marketing, which Intel learned from WiFi can be pretty expensive.

The important details that are missing are which of the three gear providers will provide what, and how will those billions be divied up. Maybe Sprint and the group haven’t decided yet, but the network is supposed to launch by the end of the year. It will be interesting to watch closely to see who gets more of the pie.

Samsung’s Principal for wireless broadband North America, Tom Jasny said to us in August that Samsung’s partnership could include chips, network infrastructure, and consumer electronics like handsets and computer cards among other devices.

Motorola has said it will provide Sprint with devices and infrastructure, according to the original Sprint announcement. Remember Motorola bought NextNet Wireless at the same time that its venture arm funded Clearwire and Clearwire uses Motorola equipment for its network.

Sprint would be smart to just to buy up Clearwire, as the carrier has a year to build a network, and could use Clearwire to get off the ground running. Clearwire in turn needs more money to move build out the mobile aspect of its WiMAX network.

One of the wild cards in the mix is Intel, which is coming from a chip perspective but doesn’t seem like it will benefit all that much. Nyquist Capital’s Andrew Schmitt wonders on his site why Intel is willing to put any money into WiMAX, when revenues from WiMAX chips will likely be tiny compared to the other markets it sells into. “Either Intel is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a foolish endeavor or something is unseen.”

Update: A spokesperson for Nokia says:

Sprint Nextel is currently working on a detailed market deployment/roll-out plan, but has not determined vendor assignments as of yet. It’s taking a number of factors into account including target markets, spectrum, POP coverage, and infrastructure availability. Markets will be assigned as a result of this ongoing analysis. Allocation of specific regions will be based on vendor experience and performance, along with market readiness for deployment.