Sprint switching to 4G LTE beginning in 2012

October 7, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka



Sprint opted to use WiMax for its 4G network because it allowed the company to be first to market with a “4G” marketing strategy. However, Verizon has since surpassed Sprint’s WiMax footprint with a massive LTE rollout, and AT&T has started down its road to delivering a faster experience on LTE.

Not content to be first with 4G, Sprint is changing strategies to be first in performance of network speeds as well. At a strategy meeting in New York City today, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced that the Now Network will begin converting its network to LTE. Rather than rely on its CDMA, iDEN, and WiMax networks, the company will focus on delivering LTE on its 1900 MHz spectrum.

Sprint will begin offer 4G LTE in mid-2012 with the expectation that its rollout will be complete by the end of 2013. It may work with Lightsquared to increase spectrum and rollout faster, however that deal is still pending. While there will be a transitional period where Sprint must maintain its legacy networks, “moving to one network,” as Hesse said, is a necessary step for Sprint to reduce costs and remain competitive with AT&T and Verizon.

By contracting its structure, Sprint will have fewer maintenance costs and be able to accelerate its rollout to more markets. The carrier aims to unify the differing technologies and gradually decommission legacy networks to free-up spectrum for new purposes.

WiMax will continue to be supported, said Steve Elfman, Sprint president of network operations. Sprint will maintain the existing 4G network and continue to sell new WiMax capable phones throughout 2012. The network will likely begin transitioning customers purchasing new devices to opt for its LTE offerings then. Sprint has already started modifying existing cell sites to consolidate its network architecture.