Sprint's Got Some Explaining to Do

11:45 AM -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) insists its multi-modal Network Vision is quite simple from a technical perspective, but it may prove less easy to explain to consumers looking to buy their next smartphones. (See Sprint Needs $3B to Fufill Its 'Network Vision'.)

Sprint, which was first with 4G with its WiMax network, is hoping it can capitalize on the growing consumer awareness of 4G (well, FauxG) and just refer to both its WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) phones as such.

But, even so, sales reps will still have to explain to consumers why they can only use certain flavors of 4G where they live. (See New Year, New 4G: At a Glance.)

I was struck by how complicated this could be after talking to Trevor Van Norman, Sprint's director of consumer product marketing, at CES, where Sprint introduced its first two LTE smartphones. (See Sprint Unveils First 3 LTE Devices and Sprint Strategizes on LTE.)

He said that consumers understand 4G and what it does, but not the differences between WiMax and LTE. Sprint sales reps will have to walk them through coverage maps -- determine where they use their phones the most, if they travel, and what their usage needs are -- to figure out if WiMax or LTE is best for them.

Of course, this year the answer will be WiMax in most cases. But Sprint will bow out of WiMax phones all together by the end of the year, if not sooner, and it's going to take a while to both build out its LTE network and create an attractive portfolio of LTE smartphones. (See Sprint to Launch LTE by Mid-2012.)

In the meantime, I think it'll be complicated for Sprint's employees to explain why you need to have 4G, but can't have that version of it.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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