Sprint, the nation’s third largest carrier, will be making its transition from its 4G WiMax technology to the broadly used LTE network for 4G mobile broadband in 2013. LTE has been adopted by Sprint’s larger rivals, Verizon Wireless and AT&T, but Sprint’s employment of LTE Advanced, rather than LTE, should help the Now Network achieve even faster speeds than the much lauded 5-15 Mbps delivered on Verizon’s self-described ‘lightning fast’ network.
Speaking at the 4G World conference, Sprint vice president of network deployment and engineering Iyad Tarazi said that the initial LTE Advanced deployment will be known as LTE Advanced 10 and will be ready by 2013. LTE ADvanced can support theoretical speeds up to 100 Mbps, or about 10 to 20 times Verizon’s current real-world speeds, and Sprint says that the initial deployment will be capable of 12-15 Mbps.
As the carrier is winding down its iDEN network, LTE Advanced will be deployed on the freed up 800 Mhz spectrum.
Like Verizon, Sprint will continue to operate its 3G CDMA/EV-DO network, and will rely on 3G to deliver voice while using 4G for data, thus allowing for simultaneous voice and data. This will require a 3G and 4G radio to be simulataneously powered on during a phone call where 4G network coverage is available, and Sprint says that it will eventually transfer to Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, in a system similar to VoIP to deliver phone calls, thereby negating two radios to be used simultaneously for voice and data calls. VoLTE will happen in early 2013.
Beginning 2012, the company will launch 12 LTE Advanced devices. Most likely, consumers can expect tablets and other data devices to launch first on the network, followed by consumer smartphones. “We believe that tablets are the right format, there’s more real estate to work with,” Tarazi says. In an interview with Light Reading, the carrier says that it is debating 4.3-inch smartphones for initial launch.
Sprint expects to blanket 250 million Americans with its LTE Advanced network by 2013. The carrier will need to raise $600 million for its LTE upgrade and an additional $150-$300 million to continue current operations.
Sprint will continue to support WiMax devices for an additional few years due to contractual obligations with partner Clearwire.