Sprint to Launch LTE by Mid-2012

NEW YORK CITY -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) plans to launch its first Long Term Evolution (LTE) markets by mid-2012 and says that the deployment will be largely complete by the end of 2013. (See Sprint Hastens to Join US LTE Race .)

"We're building as we speak," Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale, told the audience at Sprint's strategy meeting in sunny midtown Manhattan Friday morning.

The carrier plans to have 123 million LTE pops up by the end of 2012, according to Bob Azzi, senior vice president of networks at Sprint, with 250 million people in the U.S. covered by the end of 2013.

"In 2014, we'll go back and fill in ... some of the smaller markets," Azzi said.

Through its Network Vision plan, Sprint will start to deploy its LTE network on its 3G PCS (1900MHz) band, running both services concurrently to begin with. If the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approves the LightSquared plan, Sprint will then have access to 1.6GHz L-Band spectrum. (See Sprint's $13.5B Jump to LTE With LightSquared.)

The operator hopes to have all its customers off the 800MHz iDEN network by the end of 2013. It will then look to re-farm the iDEN spectrum for other uses. (See Network Polygamy Ahead for Sprint?)

"We will get into 2014 with the 1.9 [1900MHz] spectrum," Elfman said. "If indeed the LightSquared spectrum becomes available to us that will take us through 2015."

Sprint will also continue to support WiMax customers through its Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) partnership for the foreseeable future. Elfman said they will continue to sell WiMax devices through 2012.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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