updated 10:00 am EDT, Fri October 7, 2011
Sprint Strategy Update event talks LTE
Sprint in tandem with its Strategy Update event Friday is now known to be outlining a switch to LTE for its 4G. Taking advantage of its Network Vision sites, which mix CDMA, EVDO 3G, and 4G in one spot, it should have LTE in 120 cities by the end of 2012. Over 260 areas, and 250 million people, should be covered at the end of 2013.
Its first device, and thus the effective launch of the network, should arrive in the summer. A total of 12 to 15 devices should be available over the course of 2012 and will include pure data devices as well as smartphones and tablets.
More details are forthcoming, although Sprint is expected to keep its WiMAX 4G active through at least 2012. The network should run on the 1,900MHz band as well as the 1,600MHz band if LTE partner LightSquared's network is approved by the FCC. Sprint also plans Wi-Fi "offloading," or public Wi-Fi hotspots for customers to reduce the load on the cellular network.
The jump to LTE will be a crucial step for Sprint. While one of the first in the US to claim a 4G-like network, Sprint has lagged behind as carriers either get LTE, such as AT&T, MetroPCS, and Verizon, or else get 3G with 4G-like speeds. As the only carrier using WiMAX, it also faces the prospect of being unable to roam on others' networks or to get similar devices.
LTE will keep Sprint competitive and may be critical to sustaining its long-term iPhone deal. Most anticipate LTE iPads and iPhones as soon as 2012 that would either exclude Sprint entirely or leave it out of 4G. A chance is open that the first LTE device may be an iPhone given Apple's preferences for summer iPhone releases, although it often has a yearly HTC Android flagship around the same time.