With its declining wireline business, we haven't heard as much in the way of big bandwidth upgrades out of Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S, news, filings) as with other major backbones. But today they announced a pretty big one, jumping onto Ciena's 6500 Packet-Optical platform. Ciena's coherent optical technology will take their core network speeds up to 40G and 100G today, with an eye on 400G in the future.
Just where Sprint was going to go with its wireline business has been an unresolved question of late. They have been running it for cash, keeping capex at industry-low levels for years now. The decision to take its backbone down the packet-optical road may just reflect the fact that more capacity was needed to maintain the status quo and the traffic they hope to support with their LTE buildout. But I'll be interested to see if we see this and any related upgrade activity show up in second half capex numbers. Nevertheless, this does seem to decrease the likelihood that Sprint intends to monetize their wireline assets in the immediate future.
The two companies are also planning a 400G field trial for early 2013, checking for feasibility on systems already carrying live traffic. The technology upgrade cycle never rests, but so far I haven't managed to really get excited about 400G.