Rumor: Sprint Working with Walmart on WiMax Build Out


Here’s a rumor that we’d like to see play out if only for curiosity’s sake.  According a tipster of ours, Sprint has been working with an unusual partner on a project to help build out their WiMax network.  As we all know the carrier plans to release handsets later this year with WiMax capability.  But what good are these cool phones if there’s no network to support it?  Enter that mysterious partner… Wal-Mart.

Our source tells us that the effort to grow the nationwide WiMax network includes placing place WiMax towers on the top of all Walmart locations.  According to them, they were advised to consider how many stores overlap each other in a 30-50 mile radius.  Essentially, this would be enough to cover a good chunk of the United States. Plus, this would not cost nearly as much as erecting towers and dealing with hassles like zoning permissions.

We’ve seen more ridiculous rumors come to fruition so it wouldn’t surprise if this pans out.  Our source has provided us with information in the past and we feel pretty good about it.

On a side note, if you want to be creeped out, watch this time-lapse video that shows Walmarts as they’re opened by year.


  1. "30-50 mile radius", I think not. They will be lucky to get much over 1/2 mile coverage, based on reports of users in some locations. If the system was using the 700 MHz band then it would have a chance at that kind of long range coverage using a tower placed high above a Walmart building. Also just because the land is zoned for a walmart store is not a guarantee a tower would be approved for the location.

    • As always, RF depends on landscape, terrain, etc. 30-50 is realistic, 10-20 is reality with fully loaded network. Props to Michael…"90% of Americans live 15 miles away from a Wal-Mart" is accurate.

    • Since when do towers for wimax need any kind of approval? The spectrum is open. The towers don't have to be high. Are you just talking about construction permits?

      • WiMax Spectrum is not open. WiMax can be deployed on existing spectrum already owned. On Sprint it is 2.5Ghz, but they CAN and likely will launch it on the 800/900 Mhz they own from Nextel, in addition if they chose to kill off some MVNO agreements, freeing up more spectrum in the 1900 CDMA band, they could use the excess there too.

        WiMax, is NOT WiFi which is unlicensed. WiMax uses licensed spectrum.

      • Yeah. I don't think that it would take any "approval" for a Wimax tower to be put up on a walmart. If Walmarts corporate office actually goes through with this deal, then it would be up to them which locations would be used or not.

  2. My local Walmart already has one big honking cell tower mounted in it's backyard property. I wonder how many others already have towers (for rent)?

  3. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint each have between 30,000-50,000 towers. Putting WiMax at 3,000 stores would not come close to providing a nationwide footprint. Unless they are willing to put the sites at 20-30 feet, they would still need to get zoning approval to put up some type of tower at each store. Given the 2.5 GHz spectrum Clearwire/Sprint is deploying, the sites will only cover 1-2 miles.

    • a prototypical WiMax network can cover up to about 1,000 square miles or the equivalent of 10,000 WiFi hotspots. The area of the continental United States is approximately three million square miles, which suggests that 3,000 WiMax networks could cover the entire country

    • Keep drinking the kool aid my friend. Rural area cell sites with 200 foot towers might might reach 5-10 miles but not suburban/urban centers. WiMax, LTE, WiFi, EvDo….pick your standard, they all follow the same laws of physics and RF. Even if you could cover the US with 3000 sites, you would have a capacity issue. A high percentage of new cell sites built in the US are not to improve coverage but to add capacity. Using your highly idealistic numbers, you would only need one cell site to cover all 5 boroughs of New York City since in total it is less than 500 square miles. I am not knocking Sprint, Clearwire or Walmart for the idea. I am knocking the ignorance of the individual that wrote this article. They obviously have extremely limited knowledge of RF and cellular networks.

      • Well I would think that if a deal by any carrier brokered with Walmart, as "Michael" pointed out is within 15miles of 90% of the population, is a pretty damn good deal and the best place to start. One thing you have to realize is that the strength of WiMax is not speed but coverage. WiMax isn't nearly as fast as Wifi but Wifi covers a matter of feet not miles. In best case scenarios, WiMax has been able to reach 70 miles. Now granted, the people past 40 miles might have the same experience as me trying to log into my neighbor a few houses down's wifi (i.e. in and out connectivity with one bar at most) it is still a pretty good place to start. But this would actually be a step that what would benefit the people in rural areas the most, the people without 3G coverage by any carrier. Most people in rural areas don't have the building issue that the 5 boroughs would have; more open space and less people=greater coverage (something to do with physics and RF). That has been Walmart's target market since it's inception. Any carrier can just justify the costs of throwing up towers in an urban area because there are enough subscribers and/or potential subscribers to justify the costs. Walmart presents the unique opportunity to reach millions of neglected consumers because of mere spacial / geographical issues.

        So; sorry, but your profound ignorance of the world outside the 5 boroughs, of WiMax, Walmart and the rest of the prevailing facts out weigh the propositions of the above self proclaimed rumor for curiosity's sake article. but thanks for commenting.

  4. Sprint's WiMax network is the Clear network… Sprint, the former Clearwire, Comcast, and even folks like Google and Intel are partnered up in Clear, to deliver WiMax. So it's not exactly Sprint acting on their own, anyway.

    They will deploy WiMax much as they've deployed previous standards — they'll hang a few boxes on a cell tower. Some of these are owned by Sprint, but there are plenty of independently owned towers, who rent space to multiple carriers. In fact, Sprint sold off most of its cell towers to TowerCo, back in 2008, in order to raise some cash (reportedly about $670 million).. they lease back the use of them, of course. This deal was for over 3,000 towers.

    There are something like 3,500 Wal-Marts in the USA. While they could certainly put towers on top (well, local ordinances permitting), that's no cure to coverage issues. You'll have some that would essentially be redundant, too. Of course, if Wal-Mart were offering to do this super cheap, they could … but why would they? And they're still going to have to be towers, just built off of the Wal-Mart roof, presumably. So this solves the land-lease issue, but not the local ordinances related to tower building.

    And also consider, WiMax is at 2500MHz right now. That won't carry even as well as 3G (peak frequency of 2100MHz-band), so they'll need more towers or more power. Whoever thought 30-50 mile radius means coverage don't know WiMax, or even real cells. The practical limit on coverage is probably 4-5 miles, and Clear plans a cell site every 1.5 miles, ideally, in their coverage area.

    LTE on 700MHz will need far fewer towers… that's the 4G you'll see sometime this year from Verizon, and from AT&T next year.

    • Good post hazydave. Obviously written by someone that has a clue.

      I will add that the curvature of the earth limits any cellular type RF transmissions to about 20 miles (plus or minus depending on the tower height).

      Last, I would be shocked to find many Walmarts in areas that do not already have some type of cellular coverage. Assuming that fact, Sprint/Clearwire could simply rent tower space on an existing site in the area. Building a tower from scratch at a Walmart will take much longer than just renting on an existing tower.

      • WiMax can cover 30+ miles, but for argument's sake, let's say the absolute max is 20 miles based upon the Earth's curvature. But nearly 90% of the US population live within 15 miles of a Wal-Mart (cited here So for argument's sake (and because I certainly don't trust MSNBC) let's say that a WiMax tower on every Wal-Mart in the US would only reach 40% of the population (reduce for WiMax range, saturation, topography, buildings, incorrect data, etc). If you were Sprint and could partner up with Wal-Mart and reach at least 40% of the population with someone like Wal-Mart getting your back (real estate, zoning, building costs, retailing products, etc) wouldn't you take that opportunity? If Wal-Mart is in a community, and it wants to build a freakin tower on it's roof it's going to build a freakin' tower. Someone else wanting to buy real estate and build a tower, eh, maybe not (or at least not without some "considerations"). Plus the area that would be affected the most would be the rural population left out of the 3G rush by every carrier.

  5. It’s not Sprint, it’s Clear. Sprint is marketing Clear under their brand, as is Comcast, among others. It may not even be a “tower” site but just a pico-cell.

  6. It seems like a long shot, but perhaps they will have a homepage agreement with Walmart. There is now way that it will solve all the coverage issues, but it’s a good start.