Good news for Israeli entrepreneurs in the mobile communications field: Sprint Nextel will be opening a research lab in Tel Aviv later this year in collaboration with the Israel Mobile & Media Association (IMA) and using equipment provided by Alcatel-Lucent.
The facility, an acceleration lab for the company's fast-growing LTE technology, will allow Israeli start-ups access to platforms needed to test their products right in their own backyard, eliminating the need for expensive travel abroad. Wireless companies throughout the world are moving toward LTE networks to deal with the explosion in data consumption.
But in Israel this technological advance has been curbed by the Defense Ministry not releasing the necessary frequencies for civilian use. This has prevented start-ups in this field from testing and refining their products locally. The new lab is expected to provide the means to overcome this stumbling block. It also promises to provide Sprint, the third largest wireless carrier in the U.S., with exposure to the latest developments in Israeli high tech and products.
"Sprint was open to taking a totally different approach through the structure of this lab, allowing the mobile ecosystem to innovate on Sprint's LTE network," said Eyal Reshef, founder and CEO of IMA. "Letting startups run at their natural fast pace and assisting them to scale their products is the best of both worlds, ultimately enhancing Sprint customers' mobile experience. We look forward to the LTE lab opening later this year."
Technologically, Sprint will establish an actual wireless site, antenna and all, with a direct connection to the company's network base in Kansas. The initial cost is estimated at NIS 4 million. The office of the chief scientist, through the Magnet program directed by Ilan Peled, has committed to investing NIS 2 million a year in the lab for a period of six years.
"As a complement to our efforts to unlock innovation in the United States, this Sprint-sponsored LTE acceleration lab will allow startups and developers in Israel valuable access to dramatically speed up their time to market," said Sprint chief technology officer Stephen Bye, who was in Israel to make the announcement.
"We are committed to an open developer environment, creating opportunities for innovative services, products and technologies to be developed and launched on the Sprint LTE network," Bye said.