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Igniting the Future: Sprint Spark

Light Reading
Light Reading

Ever wonder what sparked the idea for Sprint to overlay a LTE TDD network on top of its existing 4G network in the US?

The answer has a lot to do with the spectrum Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has to work with: It has spectrum in the 1900MHz, 800MHz, and 2.5GHz LTE bands that together make for a much faster network.

It has so far been deploying LTE in its largest band, 1900MHz. It has also been expanding coverage with 800 MHz and improving speeds with Clearwire's 2.5GHz. Now, it also has seven cities fired up with the Spark network that combines all three.

However, Sprint says it is also building out its Spark network because of the data demands that devices are putting on its network today. It outlines the reasons behind its network upgrade, along with the expected speed benefits of Spark, in the following infographic.

Check it out, and also read up on Light Reading's Sprint Spark coverage here:

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3/20/2014 | 9:49:00 AM
Re: Spark speeds
As far as Sprint being first with the whole 4G thing, using Wimax and the rest of the world going off to LTE, yeah I don't blame them for that. Just a bad call on their part, jumping out there running with a new technoligy that didn't pan out.

But to the part about Wimax connectivity there at the store negating the connectivity of Spark, I say not so fast. When Spark is connected there is a rotating wagon wheel at the top of the phone just as for 4G, 3G, and Wifi. The Nexus phone I was testing specificaly had the wagon wheel a spinin. And I simotaniously was on 4G wimax on my GS2.

I'm sure the speeds will go up in time. However, my contract is up in May. I just don't think I want to wait that long for Sprint to catch up. In OC CA Verizon's LTE routinely gets 20mbs, and from what I've been seeing, Sprints LTE is about 3mbs. Different areas get different results, but I live in the OC, and am most concerned with where I spend the majority of my time. Sprint doesn't feel the OC is as important as I do.
3/19/2014 | 1:20:54 PM
Re: Spark speeds
If you have WiMax I can understand why you feel 'conned' by Sprint, but think of it this way--they were actually first, before everyone else, then got leapfrogged in technology when the other carriers skipped WiMax and went directly to LTE.

I typically get 10 to 15M down when I'm in an LTE area (which, admittedly, is not everywhere, but it is definitely improving). I use the FCC Android app to measure the speed.

But the big numbers that Sprint is quoting is when they include the 2.6GHz band in their LTE network, which I don't think they've turned on yet in most places. This band is still set up for WiMax in many places. If you were receiving WiMax, then that means that band was not available for LTE.

Sprint has definitely made a lot of bad choices in the past, but I think they are heading in the right direction this time. Time will tell....
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
3/19/2014 | 12:43:57 PM
Re: Spark speeds
Of all places, I'd expect the Spark speeds to be stellar in a Sprint store...if they aren't, that doesn't bode well for the network -- or Sprint's marketing efforts -- at all.
3/19/2014 | 10:39:44 AM
Re: Spark speeds
Yes I have tried spark in a sprint store in Orange California. My contract was just about up, so I was checking out if I would stay with Sprint. I had my GS2 with me which is still on 3G and 4G Wimax.  I first tested my speed on 4G Wimax there in the store. I was getting about 6mbs, not bad for Wimax. I then tried my buddies GS3 there in the store on 4G LTE. His phone was only getting 3mbs. I was supprized that my Wimax speed was higher than his LTE speed.

Next I grabbed the Nexus phone on display that supported 4G LTE Spark. I could not load a speed test app on it as it was locked out, but I could go to an online speed check site. The site didn't give mb speeds as my app had done, but rather simply a loading speed time. Nevertheless, I compared the same site on each phone and my GS2 4G wimax was still twice as fast as the Nexus on 4G LTE Spark. I have no doubt that the speeds will get better but for now my sucky 4G is still better here than the 4G LTE Spark, and believe me, that aint sayin much.

For now, I will pass. If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years is that Sprint has/will dubiously say anything to lure in customers. I have been conned before. I believe the day may come when Spark will deliver its touted 50-60 mbs, but I rather suspect it will only be 100 ft from the only supporting tower, on a Tuesday, while flapping your arms in a wind tunnel.
1/21/2014 | 12:02:18 PM
Re: Spark speeds
These are some of the complaints you see about Sprint and the disconnect between their network infrastructure and their marketing rhetoric.  Just as they did with LTE, they are happy to announce the power of their new network and tout their build out even if just a small portion of an area gets fired up.  In Chicago, they say it's a Spark enabled market.  My friends at S4GRU say about 5% of Chicago towers as of Jan 2014 have Spark enabled LTE. 

It was no different than when the original LTE network build came though, they started the build out in the burbs, announced LTE in the "Chicago market" and floods of people, myself included ran to Sprint stores to upgrade to LTE devices.  Meanwhile it was 6-12 months before LTE finally made its arrival at city cell sites.  This only led to more complaints on forums and blog, more claims of misleading and lying by Sprint.  So far same with Spark in Chicago. 

No one I know with a Spark or 800LTE device (Iphone 5s and 5c) has consistent Spark service in or around Chicago.  Heck even if you have a Nexus 5, a Spark enabled device which has the hardware support for the two other LTE bands which compose Spark, Sprint has it disabled, requiring an MSL software push once they decide its time.  But again, this hasn't stopped them from marketing, discussing, and selling Nexus 5's, other Tri Band devices, or touting Spark and its availability in this market.  Hence, disconnect.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
1/9/2014 | 1:16:51 PM
Spark speeds
Note that the peak speeds it lists won't be the same as the average speeds, but Spark will be a lot faster. Anyone tried it yet?

Also note, typos in the infographic are their's, not ours. :)
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