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John Garcia, president of Sprint Nextel's CDMA business unit, abruptly left the company as of Friday, the company reported. Garcia also had headed up Sprint's ill-fated Pivot offering, which delivered wireless services to U.S. cable companies but was shuttered earlier this year.
The CDMA unit is the most promising business for Sprint as it has spun out its WiMax operation to Clearwire and as it works to improve its struggling iDEN network, which it picked up when it acquired Nextel.
Named to head up the CDMA unit on an interim basis was Keith Cowan, who has been serving as Sprint's president of strategy and corporate development. Cowan joined Sprint Nextel in July 2007. An attorney, he previously held executive positions at BellSouth.
As one of Sprint's earliest employees, hired in 1996, Garcia began as VP of marketing, and during his tenure Sprint became the fastest company ever to reach $10 billion. Earlier in his career, Garcia held executive positions at GTE Mobilnet and AT&T.
Garcia's departure follows the vote last week by Clearwire shareholders, who approved the merger with Sprint interests to rollout a nationwide WiMax network. After Pivot was closed earlier this year, there was much speculation that cable companies could shift to WiMax to offer wireless subscriber service and include it as part of their service bundles. There had also been speculation that Garcia might move to Clearwire, which is dominated by Sprint, which has a 51% equity stake in the wide area wireless company.
Last month Sprint debuted its WiMax offering in Baltimore and users have generally praised the service. Sprint has already shifted several key executives to the Clearwire operation. WiMax offers high-speed transmissions capable of delivering video, games, and robust data services and, as such, will compete with CDMA.
While Sprint will continue to rollout its CDMA service, it has said it will work to improve its iDEN network. Sprint sought a buyer for the iDEN service, but it came up empty handed.