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Sprint could be launching LTE in early 2012, using its partners and a repurposed iDEN network to help bring it on par with the competition

Sarah Thomas

September 27, 2011

3 Min Read
Sprint Hastens to Join US LTE Race

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s Network Vision strategy includes deploying a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network as early as the first quarter of next year, according to a CNET report Tuesday. (See Sprint's Many Possible Flavors of LTE.)

The carrier has been installing LTE equipment and field testing the network in preparation for a commercial launch by the end of the first quarter or early in the second, the publication reported. Sprint had no comment on the report, but it's possible the carrier is speeding up its LTE migration as it faces increasing 4G competition from Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) in the U.S. (See What is Sprint Playing at With 4G?)Check out the chart below for its rivals' LTE deployment progress and projections.

Table 1: Population Covered with LTE in the U.S.

Verizon Wireless




160 million

Undisclosed; 5 markets

Reportedly in field tests for LTE

End of 2011

185 million

70 million

End of 2012

200 million

170 million

End of 2013

285 million (match 3G footprint)

250 million

Network Completion


2018: 97.3 percent of U.S. population (with T-Mobile)

Source: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, CNET

Sprint may want to move fast on LTE to keep up, but also to accommodate all the players in its multi-modal network. Partner LightSquared , for one, has to reach its goal of 100 million potential subscribers in the U.S. by the end of 2012. And Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), which Sprint owns most of, needs more funding to survive. (See LightSquared: We're the Good Guys, Sprint's $13.5B Jump to LTE With LightSquared, Sprint Confirms LightSquared Deal, Losses Grow and Clearwire Goes It Alone With Faster 4G.)

In addition, Sprint is likely to repurpose its iDEN 800MHz spectrum for LTE, as well as use the G-Block 700MHz it acquired from Nextel for the network. The carrier has previously said it plans to shut down the iDEN network by 2013, and has cleared it of push-to-talk subscribers, who will be moved to the CDMA network next week. (See Sprint to Launch Direct Connect on Oct. 2 and Sprint Ready to Leapfrog to Multi-Mode.)

If this is the case, then looking at its coverage map for the Nextel technology could provide a helpful snapshot of Sprint’s LTE deployment targets.


Sprint will hold its Network Vision strategy meeting on Oct. 7, at which time it should reveal more on how it will manage all its disparate networks as it migrates to LTE. (See What Will Sprint Reveal of its 4G Plans? and Sprint's Strategy Meeting Isn't So Mysterious.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

About the Author(s)

Sarah Thomas

Director, Women in Comms

Sarah Thomas's love affair with communications began in 2003 when she bought her first cellphone, a pink RAZR, which she duly "bedazzled" with the help of superglue and her dad.

She joined the editorial staff at Light Reading in 2010 and has been covering mobile technologies ever since. Sarah got her start covering telecom in 2007 at Telephony, later Connected Planet, may it rest in peace. Her non-telecom work experience includes a brief foray into public relations at Fleishman-Hillard (her cussin' upset the clients) and a hodge-podge of internships, including spells at Ingram's (Kansas City's business magazine), American Spa magazine (where she was Chief Hot-Tub Correspondent), and the tweens' quiz bible, QuizFest, in NYC.

As Editorial Operations Director, a role she took on in January 2015, Sarah is responsible for the day-to-day management of the non-news content elements on Light Reading.

Sarah received her Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She lives in Chicago with her 3DTV, her iPad and a drawer full of smartphone cords.

Away from the world of telecom journalism, Sarah likes to dabble in monster truck racing, becoming part of Team Bigfoot in 2009.

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