Sprint Could Blanket Their Network With LTE by 2013


Speaking at that same Morgan Stanley Tech conference yesterday where Dan Hesse admitted they had a Plan B if Clearwire talks didn’t pan out, the Sprint CEO stated that if they were to go with LTE for their 4G network they could blanket their entire coverage area by 2013. That’s quite impressive considering how much time it’s taken for their WiMax to roll out. (That’s been out for some years now and it isn’t even close to being finished.) With all of this LTE talk lately I wouldn’t be surprised if Sprint’s CTIA event sees them announcing new network plans. [Fierce]

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. If they finish by 2013 there is no way it would be a quality network. I also doubt they are going to use a quality spectrum (not all LTE is equal). Sprint just point blank doesn’t charge enough money to put together a quality network. That’s why Verizon can put together a great network. You may for what you get as a customer and company for that matter.

  2. How big is Sprint’s network? Don’t they use a lot of Verizon’s network for roaming for a good part of the US? I’m guessing they might be able to do it, just because of the size of their network (or lack their of).

  3. @JBW I’ve only ever roamed on Verizon a couple of times deep inside of a grocery store out in a very remote area of my town. They have great coverage in most major and even minor cities.

  4. sprint just keeps on making poor business decisions, first the purchase of nextel then going wimax when every one trying to go lte, they just need to forget wimax and go ahead with lte asap, other wise they are going to lose more customer to Verizon and at&t, hell even tmobile have a faster network in place, sprint better get the ball rolling fast.

  5. Clearwire is da best, and all you other 4G providers is just a buncha clowns.

  6. @LT – The switch from WiMax to LTE is very easy, the hardware that Sprint uses for WiMax would only require switching an RF Modulator card and a firmware update on the tower. To switch one tower from WiMax to LTE would take 30min at most. And that includes the time to unlock the door, walk in, set down your toolbelt, perform the upgrade, lock up and leave.
    The real problem would be that switching from WiMax to LTE would render the “4g” WiMax on current handsets obsolete (Evo 4g, etc).

  7. Sprint’s decisions on many fronts make me glad I switched to Verizon. Wimax is a joke. Deployment has stalled indefinately. Now, they are going to go Lte. I stuck with Sprint for 7 years. Glad to be with Verizon at long last. They have their shit together.

  8. The down side is Sprint will probably add another “premium data” fee or increase the one they have. I am a Sprint customer but may not be renewing my contract. The just changed their Sprint Premiere status so that you no longer can upgrade your primary line every year. That was the only point of the program…the other things you get are just throw ins to make the list look beefy. Sprint acts like they are doing well..however I fear these new fees, the change of their Premiere program is just showing that they are not okay and hurting for money. That or they are becoming very greedy.

  9. @Darrick How about purchasing all the spectrum? The 700mhz has been all bought by Verizon and the 1100mhz is being bought by AT&T and others. It seems pretty late to jump on to LTE, I feel as though they should stick with Wimax and ride it out.

  10. Those who are stating that Sprint is losing customers do not know what they are talking about. They had more growth last quarter then any of the carrires, with over 1.1 million NEW customers, second place verizon gained 800,000 customers, while T-Mobile lost over 300,000. Research your facts before you speak. And yes, if Sprint does decide to switch to LTE, they can have it done in the time frame mentioned, as they would make the move to the 700Mhz frequency, which requires considerably less stations then they are installing now for WiMax in the 2.5 Ghz range (over 20,000).

  11. @LT – Oh, missed your second part of your statement. Yes, the spectrum would be repurposed. And no, Sprint’s spectrum isn’t as valuable (good) as Verizon’s. But right now Verizon has the best spectrum there is for cell phones with their 700mhz LTE. The 2.5ghz spectrum that Sprint owns doesn’t have as good penetration or range. However it has more bandwidth and could theoretically be faster. Fits with each of their business plans though. Verizon wants the most reliable (lower frequency, better penetration), Sprint wants the fastest (higher frequency, better bandwith).

  12. @Darrick – Wow…didn’t think of that (the loss of 4g on phones like the Evo). I will be honest though, I rarely use 4g since 3g for me in my area works great and the speed is awesome. The only 3g is too slow is because signal sucks and in that case, I normally can’t pick up 4g.

    But you are right I bought my phone in part for the 4g part of it…I would be upset if they took that away.

  13. Here is a good graphic that shows the FCC allocation of spectrum for WiMax and LTE in the bandwith that Sprint uses:

  14. Who owns the 2.5 ghz spectrum? Isn’t it Clearwire? How would Sprint be able to re-farm what’s already been used if that’s the case? There’s some heavy hitters behind Sprint, all with more clout ($$$) than them. I may be wrong on the ownership of that license… so feel free to correct me.

    But they’re way behind Verizon and Sprint… and technically T-Mo. Verizon and Sprint pretty much hold all 700 licenses nationwide. Verizon and AT&T own a ton of AWS spectrum which is the expansion frontier for LTE; Verizon east of the Mississippi, AT&T west. T-Mo has nationwide AWS coverage, which it is currently using for its 3G network. AWS is also the sweet-spot for LTE speed, while not sacrificing too much indoor coverage.

  15. Correction on my post **heavy hitters behind Clearwire**

  16. On thing might hold true which we might see this March 22nd the possibility of either a wimax/Lte enabled device introduced as the Evo 2 or just the continued wimax network. Either way sprint will be fine and will move on to introduce there products for the summer of 2011 which will produce some fun products…

  17. @TF – ClearWire does own the 2.5ghz WiMax spectrum, however Sprint owns a 54% controlling stake in ClearWire (effectively Sprint owns ClearWire), so if Sprint wants to reappropriate the 2.5ghz spectrum to LTE, it will happen. And yes, Sprint has done this in the past with other companies (PCS, Nextel, MCI Worldcom, etc). If Sprint announces that it is going LTE, expect ClearWire to dissolve into history as Sprint takes them over, takes what they need, and sells the rest off.

  18. Would taking out the current evo 4g also include the Epic 4g? And if so, for those of us who have those phones, wonder if we will be offered a deal on upgrading w/o having to renew contracts, even if we don’t qualify for upgrades. Not to mention taking out the extra $10 mo. charge for anyone who didn’t want to upgrade to the “new 4g capable” phones. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

  19. I guess that my post didn’t get through… I’ll try part of it again. So this would mean taking out my Epic 4g too?

  20. Im all for LTE the 4G they have now doesnt matter to me because its not in my area.

  21. @Darrick,

    Yes, Sprint hold 54% of Clearwire shares, but they do NOT own them or control them.

    You’re wrong on thinking that Sprint can just take spectrum from Clearwire because they’re the majority shareholder. If them being the majority shareholder made them the owner, then they wouldn’t be arguing over the wholesale cost of WiMax to Sprint or Clearwire trying to sell directly to the end user.

    As for Sprint’s LTE strategy, Sprint has already had parts of their 800/1900 mhz spectrum reallocated for TD-LTE. That’s where Sprint go with LTE, if they break from Clearwire.

    I do agree with you that switching from WiMax to LTE is a fairly easy process on most of Clearwire’s base stations. The catch is that these WiMax locations are owned by Clearwire, not Sprint; so as I alluded to b4, Sprint can’t just convert existing WiMax base stations to LTE.

  22. Sprint is phasing out iDEN. It’s almost done. They could buy out the stragglers if they wanted to speed it up. That is 800Mhz, which would compete well with the Verizon 700 frequency.

    So, could Sprint use that 800 frequency to build their own LTE network?

  23. blah blah Lte is just around the corner blah blah blah.

    LTE has been “coming next year” for the past 5 years. All 100% BS.

  24. Evo Evo Evo blah blah blah Evo Evo Evo blah blah blah

  25. Also, it looks like Sprint is trying to emulate the Europe strategy. Their LTE network is a combo of 800MHz and 2.6GHz. Gives you penetration and bandwidth. Their 1900MHz is just the cherry on top.
    It will open them up to easily adopting a wider array of phones.

    If they actually go this route, they could be in a much better network situation than Verizon.

  26. Sprint’s Senior Vice President of Networks, Bob Azzi has stated that Sprint currently owns 120mhz of spectrum in the 1900mhz band and 14mhz in the 800mhz band and that this is where their LTE will go, if they break from Clearwire and go TD-LTE.

    Now if Sprint would do this but also add an 700mhz radio, they could have a roaming agreement with Verizon, for LTE, to more quickly get nationwide coverage. Making full coverage by 2013/14 do-able.

  27. I’m happy with t mobile

  28. Sprint is not announcing LTE until Q1 2012. Project will finish in 2013. The 800 mhz is going to be used for CDMA to increase building penetration from the 1900 mhz. It is unclear where LTE will operate.

  29. Gin, yes that would include the epic 4g.

    So once again Sprint falls behind in the carrier race. They were in such a hurry to be the first to rollout 4g they didn’t see the big picture. First to get it started but now way behind in coverage. I live in the Metro Detroit area and Sprint failed to even rollout wimax here. It’s like the 9th largest area in the country and you don’t put coverage there? Who are the rocket scientist making these decisions? The other carriers had no problem including the area. Major fail for Sprint IMO. It’s no wonder Ford took there business to Verizon.

  30. People need to get a life… First off, “IF” and when they MIGHT switch we’ll all be on newer handsets, and it will be very easy to PROVISION expansion or multi-frequency capacity into those handsets if required. LT, ever consider the fact that Sprint charges competitively due to the fact they are not GOUGING their customers as some of the other, ehemmm… Verizon, (hint, hint), carriers do…!??? Lol, I love the Verizon customer base and their penchant for creating justification for paying more then they need to for cellular service! :D Not too different than the i-whatever kool-aid drinkers!

    I’m sure Sprint is going to do everything they can to get the Wimax to flourish, the spectrum is wide open for them and will not suffer the load that the Verizon network is now experiencing. Sprint was best poised to handle customer expansion (bandwidth) and switching over to the LTE will certainly not be a quick decision.

    As for the haters… I hope you enjoy donating those extra $$$ for the same or less service on that fancy dandy Verizon network. Personally, I’ve not had a problem with coverage or CS in years over here at Sprint(NY), but that’s just me and my opinion. Unless Dan Hesse falls flat on his face, Sprint will continue to “ADD” customers this year and continue to improve as they have done recently, give it a break with all the diatribe! If your not on the Sprint network, why are you even bothering to comment on it? Interesting… (trolling?)

    Anyway, regards!

  31. I forgot to mention… there are major ADVANTAGES to Wimax over LTE by the way and I for one think this is just a pressure move to maybe force a takeover of Clearwire, just my opinion. Sprint will stay with WiMax…

  32. Am a mid level sprint exec. Here’s what I know:
    * Sprint will soon launch Wimax+LTE phones and stop selling Wimax only phones this year.
    * Clear/Srint will start deploying LTE on the remaining half of their spectrum holdings.
    * Wimax will be turned off in 2014 and that spectrum will be put to use in LTE.
    * Sprints new network supports moving all existing assets to LTE. Look for Sprint to have the fastest and best LTE network in 2014.
    * T-Mobile will partner with Clear/Sprint and offer HSPA+LTE phones by the end of 2012.
    * Look for mobile bandwidth needs skyrocket in 2012 and 2013. It won’t be about coverage anymore, it will be about download limits. The company with the best spectrum holdings will win.

    – Disclaimer: I hold CLWR.

  33. I read an article yesterday that sprint would repurpose there 800mhz I den spectrum for use with lte when they shut it down in late 2012. They said it would help to improve in building performance

  34. As a Sprint customer in San Diego, this news is very disheartening. WiMAX deployment here went in testing, sputtered, and has pretty much not been heard from in a long time. If Sprint is switching to LTE, will it be another 2+ year wait before a major metropolitan market like SD gets served?

    If I want to upgrade my phone, and I very much do, I will be forced to pay the “premium data” fee. I don’t care what they call it, it is the 4G tax, and it’s something that I will not be able to take advantage of anytime soon (within the lifetime of the contract!). What’s worse, my Hero is feeling very outdated and any phone I get will be immediately obsolete because Sprint does not have WiMAX here and has not started LTE deployment anywhere. I’ll get a 4G phone that has no practical bandwidth advantage over 3G, and probably won’t work with the future LTE deployment.

    Lastly, Sprint downgraded the Sprint Premier plan to be effectively useless for most people. The only thing that mattered was the annual upgrades, and now it’s gone.

    The only good thing about Sprint now is the price, but with them continuously taking away incentives for me to upgrade, I feel more and more inclined to switch to T-Mobile once my contract runs out early next year, by which point I’m sure we still won’t have 4G speeds in San Diego.

    Sprint, please get your act together.

  35. Crabjoe…didn’t know about the decision to use 1900mhz and 800mhz. As far as the 54% ownership of ClearWire is concerned, all Sprint would have to do is elect their own BOD on the next cycle (since they have 54% they have the most votes so they win), and have *their* BOD do exactly what they want (switch to LTE). Called a hostile take over. Right now if you want to see this exact thing going on look at Tenet Healthcare. They are undergoing the same takeover where a majority owner has stated their intention of electing their own BOD, then having their BOD vote to sell Tenet Healthcare to the stakeholder in question to make it privately owned.

  36. yaah even if sprint doesnt get 4g put together the low prices and pretty good coverage keep me with them , but 4g is not a big deal considering now with most phones are fast enough and have wifi , 4g is practically useless and is just a battery consumer , for the most part when i use my phones browser i am at home and i use wifi wich by its self is faster than 4g and when i use 4g (las vegas) it uses the battery like no other and i have to plug it in almost immedietly so it is not practical to even use in public ; so until phones come standard with 3000 mah batteries i think 4g is a waste. besides dual core 1.2 ghz is fast enough that is coming out with some phones

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