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Sprint redeploys Clearwire spectrum for its latest high-speed network

Sprint is dropping its obsolete WiMAX network as it had previously announced, telling customers the network will cease operating at 11:01 p.m. Nov. 6.

The telecom carrier had announced last year it would shut down the network this fall and use the spectrum for its latest high-speed network, called Long-Term Evolution, or LTE.

The shutdown affects subscribers using the Clear 4G network and the Clearwire Expedience Network. Sprint bought the portion of the Clearwire wireless network operator that it didn’t already own in late 2012 in order to use Clearwire’s spectrum for LTE.

The LTE network is designed to support the newest smartphones.

Sprint could not provide numbers on how many Chicago users will be affected.

Sprint issued a statement Monday saying it would provide a free Sprint LTE-capable device — an upgrade from old devices — to certain Sprint subscribers and let the subscribers stay on their existing service plan, if it is available. However, Clearwire subscribers will have to pay for a new device.

A story in the FierceWireless trade-industry newsletter said it would cost $50 million to $100 million for Sprint to shut down cellular towers for the project. Sprint declined to confirm any costs.

The WiMAX network is the second network Sprint will shut down in as many years. The carrier stopped operating its iDEN Nextel network in 2013. It is now deploying LTE service on the 800 MHz spectrum that is now available for it to use because of the iDEN network shutdown.

Meanwhile, AT&T announced Monday it has launched its GigaPower high-speed network to U-verse customers in parts of Elgin, Oswego, Plainfield, Skokie, Yorkville and surrounding communities. The network enables Internet access fast enough to download 25 songs in less than one second, and load a high-definition movie in less than 36 seconds, according to an AT&T statement.

Besides the Internet connection speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, AT&T customers who can access the faster network will get greater Wi-Fi wireless speeds, the company said. That’s because AT&T upgraded its residential gateway so that it connects more devices with faster speeds, the company said.

AT&T said it plans to expand the ultra-high-speed network to Chicago this summer, but spokeswoman Erin McGrath said no specific neighborhoods are yet being identified as the next sites for the service.