Yesterday I came across an story about GE Healthcare and Sprint. There were lots of what marketing folks call "glamor words" but little in the way of substance. After reading another 4 stories here's what I've figured out.

GE Healthcare is taking their proprietary WMTS wireless telemetry, the MobileAccess in-building distributed antenna system (what GE calls CARESCAPE Enterprise Acess), Sprint's CDMA and iDEN cellular phone services, combined with the customer's WiFi network, and is providing integrated wireless connectivity engineered (I think) by Sprint's Custom Network Solutions group. (Here's the GE press release - by far the most informative source on this announcement.) From the press release:

Uninterrupted communication within a hospital is a requirement for physicians, patients and visitors and is essential to quality care. Sprint (NYSE: S) and GE Healthcare announced today their collaboration to provide in-building wireless communications services to hospitals in North America. Patients, clinicians and hospital visitors will benefit from secure, reliable voice and data communications, supporting an environment conducive to higher levels of patient care. Historically, the use of mobile phones in hospitals has been limited due to unreliable wireless support and the risk of interference between wireless phones and medical equipment. Using the new combined offering, physicians and caregivers will be able to communicate amongst each other and securely access patient information from almost anywhere in the facility.

Motherhood and apple pie. But what's the announcement?

The new in-building cellular communications network from GE Healthcare and Sprint's Custom Network Solution (CNS) team leverages GE's CARESCAPE Enterprise Access, a single, universal wireless platform powered by MobileAccess, and includes Sprint handsets. This solution will provide hospitals with a comprehensive platform for voice and data communications over secure cellular, Wi-Fi and telemetry infrastructure that requires only one installation. Using the combined offering, clinicians, patients and hospital visitors can communicate more efficiently and with ease.

"Sprint CNS provides scalable coverage and a high-capacity platform for wireless voice and data services on the Sprint National Network and Nextel National Network, enhancing the mobility and productivity of staff at hospitals and other businesses," says Darlene Braunschweig, vice president of CNS at Sprint. "We are very excited to partner with GE Healthcare to provide differentiated and innovative mobile solutions that are critical for every business. This new solution facilitates constant communication of secure information amongst hospital staff; an aspect very critical to patient care."

So it seems that Sprint will pipe their cellular network into hospitals to run on the MobileAccess DAS. This is something that MobileAccess can already to - with any carrier. It is not clear how (or if) Sprint's offering will be differentiated from other carriers. Nor is it clear if CDMA, iDEN or both networks will be supported. For that matter, what about the new WiMax wireless network that Sprint's building? The fact that a Sprint handset is required is also confusing. Since US carriers lock their phones to their networks, of course you must use a Sprint phone on their network. Or does the Sprint handset provide some special features? Oh, and the bit about "secure cellular" - all cellular networks are secure, especially the air link which is encrypted.

Does the announcement also include WAN networking on Sprint's backbone? This is also not clear, though it could be a nice feature if there was a nice bundled (i.e., reduced) price, or there were other hospital trading partners on the WAN.

The downside of this announcement is that Sprint is a second tier mobile carrier at best (52 million subscribers), behind both AT&T (58.7 million subscribers) and Verizon (54 million subscribers). They are also the only carrier with the iDEN network (they bought Nextel). Hospitals that only offer Sprint in building coverage will meet the needs of less than a third of potential users. Hospitals need carrier agnostic solutions that allow users to connect, regardless of carrier. Maybe GE is working on announcements with AT&T and Verizon too.

Unless someone can explain it to us, this seems this is a non event.

In other news, the Chair, President and CEO of Sprint, Gary Forsee, beat a hasty retreat. It seems that, "Sprint decided it was time to put new leadership in place to move the
company forward in improving its performance and realizing corporate