Multi-million dollar contract to allow Sprint to expand satellite-based backhaul for cellular

Sprint is extending its relationship with satellite connectivity provider Gilat, in a multi-million dollar, three-year managed service contract that will support expansion of Sprint’s network, according to Gilat.

Gilat said that it will be providing “both services and the equipment to operate Sprint’s 3G and LTE networks in selected areas for cellular backhaul and other applications. Gilat will deliver services to remote cell sites over a three-year period with an optional extension, to support Sprint’s network coverage and expansion plans.”

Sprint had a previously existing contract with Gilat to support its cellular network; the companies signed a contract around this time last year for wireless backhaul services to support the extension of LTE to rural areas as well as the edges of metropolitan areas, and “special events and mobile emergency response efforts across the country,” as Satellite Today reported. That contract has now been expanded to include managed services for satellite-based backhaul. Around the same time as the Gilat contract in 2016, Sprint also selected DragonWave as a vendor for microwave-based backhaul systems — part of an overall effort to reduce network costs and deployment timelines by relying on wireless backhaul rather than expensive wired connections.

“Backhaul is really very much a function of the way we want to engineer the network,” said Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati at Deutsche Bank’s Media, Internet and Telecom conference in March of last year. “We are going to densify the network … but as part of the densification we are rethinking our backhaul strategy and that is all around using a mix of Ethernet, fiber and wireless backhaul to keep our costs down.”

DragonWave has since run into financial trouble and entered receivership; it is now in the process of being acquired by privately held Transform-X to address 5G backhaul needs. That transaction is expected to close this month.

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