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Sprint's Not Snubbing Baltimore on LTE

7:30 PM -- Baltimore: city of crab cakes, The Wire and -- until now -- a sure-fire testbed for people who wanted to be early adopters for new Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) 4G technology.

Baltimore was, at one time, listed as one of the six cities that would initially receive Sprint's 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service. Just as it had been the first city to get Sprint's XOHM WiMax service back in September 2008. (See Sprint Launches 15 Markets in 4G LTE Clusters and Sprint Sets LTE Launch Date .)

When Sprint announced at the end of June that it would launch LTE on July 15, however, Baltimore was somehow no longer amongst the cities named for the new 4G service. To rub salt in the wound, the operator then extended to launch to 10 other nearby cities in Georgia, Texas and Missouri, announcing the move this Monday. (See Sprint Sets LTE Launch Date .)

It seems that the 4G snub may not last too long, though. "Stay tuned on Baltimore," a Sprint spokeswoman tells me. "We will be announcing our plans soon."

Whatever happens, It seems that unlimited data plans will remain the cornerstone of Sprint's marketing message for 4G LTE for the time being. Unlimited data on smartphones is the only thing Sprint has on 4G at the moment that rivals AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless definitely don't.

Verizon trounces all-comers on LTE coverage right now with over 300 towns, cities and hamlets covered. There's a battle between AT&T and Verizon over which has the fastest LTE network; a PC Mag test of 30 cities found Ma Bell winning in 10, Verizon in 19 and one draw.

Sprint doesn't seem to be quite as fast as it rivals if its early testing holds true. Sprint reports that it gets average downloads in the 6-to-8Mbit/s range with peaks of up to 25Mbit/s. Verizon has typically claimed 5-to-12Mbit/s averages with much higher peaks.

This is likely because Sprint has started its deployment with 5MHz radio channels for LTE, rather than the 10MHz channels that Verizon and AT&T have on the 700MHz band. Sprint is actively looking to free up more spectrum. (See Size Matters for LTE, Verizon CTO Says and Sprint Counters Verizon's 4G Jibe.) So, I wonder, is it worth jumping ship for Sprint LTE 4G yet?

Forget LTE for a moment and consider Sprint's WiMax. You can get a $300 EVO V 4G phone through Sprint's Virgin Mobile USA Inc. (NYSE: VM) operation, contract-free, with plans that start at $35. And WiMax has average download speeds of 2Mbit/s to 6Mbit/s on paper -- not drastically slower than LTE -- and it is available in 71 U.S. cities. (See What We Mean When We Say '4G'.)

Something to think about, anyway ...

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:27:50 PM
re: Sprint's Not Snubbing Baltimore on LTE

Anyone in the Sprint LTE cities?

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