Sprint's LTE Advance Is a Move to Keep Up
Sprint said Tuesday morning that it plans to start upgrading its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network to the next-generation specification in the first half of 2013. The CDMA operator has said that it will start deploying LTE in its first markets in 2012 on its 1900MHz PCS G-Band spectrum.
Sprint is the first U.S. carrier to officially announce an LTE-Advanced deployment plan. Verizon Wireless has said that it will work on LTE-Advanced standards and plans to move to the technology over the long term. Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR) has described its current trials as LTE-Advanced "ready."
So, in theory, the move to LTE-Advanced could give Sprint a significant advantage over rivals. The specification is supposed to give data downloads of up to 100 Mbit/s if a user is on the move. [Ed note: Yeah right, maybe, if you're standing next to the tower somewhere in the least populated part of Montana.] In practice, however, Sprint has two smaller 5MHz channels in its PCS band to deploy LTE in, at least until it can get its hands on LightSquared spectrum. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless have paired 10MHz channels in the 700MHz band to deploy LTE in.
Bigger channels equals faster 4G, all else being equal.
If Sprint is planning to launch LTE-Advanced in 2013 it will likely start with its initial 5X5 channels. So, in fact, the improved processing and wider antenna array of LTE-Advanced may not buy it a significant advance over rival LTE deployments.
This could eventually change as Sprint re-farms its 800MHz spectrum and adds LightSquared L-Band and Clearwire capacity to the mix. In the early stages, however, it seems to me that Sprint may be trying to use advanced technology to eke as much out of the limited spectrum at its disposal at it can, while rivals have more bandwidth to play with.
— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile