Sprint's First 10 LTE Markets Coming by Mid-Year

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) will build out its first 10 Long Term Evolution (LTE) markets by mid-year, and the biggest four will hail from the South -- Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.

"We are going to launch 10 Network Vision markets before the middle of this year; four of those will be big markets," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced Thursday afternoon at the Citigroup conference.

These markets will also get 3G network upgrades, Sprint's official Twitter handle suggested, although Hesse did not address what those would entail.

Interestingly, these four cities are also markets AT&T targeted with its initial LTE rollout.

Working closely with its three suppliers, Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and Samsung Corp. , Hesse said Sprint successfully completed LTE lab testing last year, as well as launched its first multi-modal cell site in New Jersey, making it confident it could meet its objectives this year. (See Sprint Goes Multi-Mode.)

"We're progressing quite well so far," he said.

When questioned about the hefty expense associated with Network Vision, as well as the money spent to acquire the iPhone, Hesse used some clever math to explain that the carrier has cut capex, taken opex down dramatically and increased prices enough that it will start to grow revenue again. But, he admitted, the next couple of years will be tough as it works to pay off its two big debts.

As part of that debt, Sprint recently invested in Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), which Hesse said gives it real price assurance around WiMax for the next couple of years and allows them to use the 4G network as a "hot spot" in areas they need more capacity. He reiterated that Sprint would have LTE-FD devices in 2012 on its own network and LTE-TD, which can use the planned Clearwire LTE network, in 2013. At the same time, Sprint also just offered LightSquared a 30-day deadline extension on clearing its interference issues with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) . Hesse said that Sprint is clearly protected because of the pre-payments it received from LightSquared and it doesn’t plan to invest more. (See Can LightSquared Hit Its New Deadline? and Sprint Gives LightSquared 30-Day Extension.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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