updated 11:50 am EDT, Tue September 27, 2011
Sprint to transition to LTE from WiMAX next year
Sprint's October 7 Strategy Update is likely to be used to unveil a gradual switch to LTE for its 4G, insiders tipped on Tuesday. Going beyond just its LightSquared pact, the carrier was reported by CNET as already deploying and field testing LTE. The new network would go live in early 2012 as part of an expanded Network Vision plan, where it consolidates CDMA, 3G, and 4G all on the same cell sites.
A possibility exists that the faster 4G could roll out sooner if everything goes well. Despite Sprint's continued fiscal losses, it may hop to LTE without any significant added investment, possibly helped again by LightSquared.
Left open is the fate of WiMAX, although it's presumed Sprint would keep the older 4G-branded technology for some time while it transitions over.
The switch would put a third major, national US carrier on track for LTE and leave out only T-Mobile, whose customers might get LTE regardless if AT&T can overcome a Department of Justice lawsuit blocking a merger. While frequency support will vary from network to network and would require devices optimized for all three, LTE will let devices roam on data and eventually voice across carriers that were previously technically incapable.
Sprint may also be making the switch to court Apple. While it's poised to get an iPhone 5, getting a possibly 4G-equipped iPhone 6 and a 4G iPad might necessitate using LTE to get the same hardware available to AT&T and Verizon.