Sprint Nextel Corp. says that it will have its faster 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service coming to "more than 100 cities" in the U.S. in the "coming months."
The third-ranked operator revealed those new launch plans on its community blog Monday morning.
The new cities will include Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. The post also notes that 4G LTE construction has begun in Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; New Orleans, and parts of Florida, as well as many other towns and cities.
The note does not yet give an exact timetable for any the new LTE launch cities. However, Sprint has previously committed to covering up to 120 million PoPs with LTE by the end of the year. (See Sprint, the LTE iPhone & 4G Plans.)
What fresh 4G means for Sprint users
The Sprint LTE network is currently in 19 towns and cities in the U.S. These are mostly clustered in Georgia and Texas at the moment. Here's a map of the areas that are live. (See Sprint Launches 4 LTE Markets for Labor Day.)
View Sprint 4G LTE Markets in a larger map
Sprint says that its new LTE network offers peak download speeds of 25Mbit/s, with averages of 6Mbit/s to 8Mbit/s. Uploads clock in at 2Mbits to 3Mbit/s. The WiMax service it has touted as 4G since 2008 offers averages of 3Mbit/s to 6Mbit/s on the download. (See Sprint's 4G LTE Scramble.)
The most important aspect of the coming launches, however, is how much more LTE coverage it will give Sprint users in major cities. Sprint, like all the major LTE operators in the U.S., operates on its own unique LTE frequency (1900MHz) and doesn't roam onto other carriers' 4G networks.
Thus, if you want coverage that doesn't revert to a 3G crawl, you have to look for Sprint's flavor of LTE. It presently sells four LTE-capable smartphones and a mobile hot spot, but no tablets. (See Sprint LTE Devices Arrive Before Network.)
A 4G launch from Sprint won't necessarily guarantee 4G LTE across a city, as Bob Azzi, senior vice president of Networks at Sprint, explained to Light Reading Mobile in July about the initial launch. (See Sprint: The Birth of a Network.)
"We weren't planning to wait until we had all our cell sites covered," Azzi told us. Instead, the cities went live "when we determined that we had a sufficient footprint that enough people could find it in enough places." (See Sprint Launches 15 Markets in 4G LTE Clusters.)
The operator will fill in 4G gaps after launch. The entire 3G CDMA network is expected to be LTE-capable by the end of 2013.
Where's the Bay Area?
The lack of Bay Area cities is one puzzling aspect of Sprint's new launch list. There's no mention of Oakland, San Francisco, or any of the surrounding areas. In fact, Los Angeles is the only California city on the list so far. This apparent absence also comes amid recent reports of Sprint 4G test signals in the Bay Area from users with LTE devices. (See Sprint's 4G LTE Testing Tease.)
We'll keep an eye on Sprint's California gap and report back if anything changes as the year closes out.
â€” Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile