updated 05:45 pm EDT, Wed March 16, 2011
Sprint Project Leapfrog would add LTE
Sprint is quietly going ahead with a plan that would bring LTE to its network, a rumor started by a GLG contributor on Wednesday. Reportedly called Project Leapfrog, it would see Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, and Samsung add in LTE for 4G on its network and use the exit from IDEN to clear up 800MHz spectrum for the new network's use. It would reportedly take three years but would both put it on par with rivals like AT&T and Verizon while lowering its costs.
The description partly lines up with that of Sprint's Network Vision. Its strategy would consolidate all its voice and data cell sites into unified stations, but it has so far only mentioned WiMAX when building in 4G.
Public responses to the prospect of using LTE have always been mixed. The company has repeatedly said it's committed to WiMAX but has shown increasing signs that it's at least exploring the possibility of the much faster service. Network operations head Steve Elfman has said Sprint could start using LTE by 2012 and would have a nationwide network by 2013, coinciding with the end of IDEN for push-to-talk. The carrier has gone so far as to say it might be pushed that direction through changes in frequency ownership.
Any move would depend on Clearwire, but the switch could significantly increase cellular competition in the US. Virtually all major American carriers are planning to move to LTE, and a swap would for the first time let customers either go to or from Sprint without having to switch phones and would give Sprint phones that are normally off-limits.
One of these has been the iPhone, which Verizon has hinted is evenutally going LTE and which most expect would come next year, once more carriers and more coverage exist. Sprint has been desirous of the iPhone and has routinely avoided confirming or denying plans using the same language Verizon did when it already had a deal and was simply trying to protect existing sales. A Sprint iPhone is entirely possible today using CDMA, but like Verizon's would be virtually trapped on the carrier by the nature of the technology.