A US court ordered Sprint to keep its WiMAX network running in certain areas for the next 90 days, halting the company’s plans to shut the system down today (6 November).
WiMAX was the first ‘4G’ network introduced in the US, before operators began switching to LTE, and was developed by low cost operator Clearwire, with Sprint as a major wholesale customer.
After being acquired by Japan’s SoftBank, Sprint struck a deal to take over Clearwire in 2013, and announced plans last year to shut down WiMAX, after committing to LTE.
However, two low cost service providers have since scuppered the plans.
Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen, which provide unlimited broadband service from Sprint, argued that the company was breaching a contract if it shut down the network before approximately 300,000 mostly low income users were able to make the transition to LTE.
The two companies now have 90 days to ensure their customers make the switch.
“The courts persevered a lifeline for the communities and families we serve,” Katherine Messier, managing director for Mobile Beacon, said. “We hope Sprint will now work with us to ensure the elderly, disabled, students and other vulnerable populations who rely on our service can transition to LTE quickly and avoid any disruption in service.”
Sprint, now the US’ fourth largest operator by connections, reportedly disagreed with the decision but said it would “comply with the courts to delay WiMAX decommissioning where it could affect current Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen customers”.
John Schwartz, founder and president of Mobile Citizen, said the court order “compels Sprint to honour its professed commitment for closing the digital divide”.
“It’s unfortunate it took a court order to stop Sprint from shutting off 300,000 children, families, teachers and community members from access to the American dream,” he added.
Both Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen provide broadband service to 429 schools, 61 libraries and 1,820 non profit organisations across the US on Sprint’s WiMAX network.