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Can Sprint Roll Out 4G LTE Fast Enough?
By Jennifer LeClaire
Posted: September 10, 2012 11:13am PDT

In addition to its 4G LTE rollout, Sprint is doing a complete overhaul of its 3G infrastructure so that customers can enjoy better wireless signal strength, in-building coverage, and fewer dropped and blocked calls. Dropped and blocked calls, though, could become a reality if Sprint can't move fast enough.

As it struggles to keep up with Verizon and AT&T on the network front, Sprint on Monday announced that its 4G LTE network build is under way in more than 100 more cities. The latest cities named in the rollout include Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C.

The desire is there, but the spectrum isn't. Sprint is still lagging behind, with 4G LTE currently only in 19 metropolitan areas. Sprint is at a disadvantage against Verizon and AT&T because it's tapping into LTE in a smaller slice of spectrum.

Sprint's official line: Eventually, the markets will fill in until coverage largely matches the existing nationwide 3G footprint. By the end of 2013, Sprint expects to have completed the nationwide build-out of the all-new 3G and 4G network.

Although it's encouraging to see Sprint sticking firm to its LTE launch commitments outlined in its Network Vision plan, Sprint is facing the tip of a double-edged sword, said Weston Henderek, principal analyst at Current Analysis.

"If one particular market sees a lot of uptake, Sprint's network is going to fill up more quickly than it would for a carrier who launched LTE in a wider spectrum band," Henderek told us. "That's the big drawback right now when it comes to Sprint."

Preparing for the Onslaught

Sprint has to move as fast as it can. According to Chetan Sharma Consulting, mobile data is expected to comprise 95 percent of the global mobile traffic by 2015. Sprint's network strategy, known as Network Vision, aims to meet these growing demands. Network Vision promises improved network reliability, better voice quality, and faster data speeds as the improvements are rolled out across the country.

"The mobile industry is going through an incredible change -- smartphones, connected devices, and the seemingly unlimited supply of new applications and services are changing consumer behavior in dramatic ways," said Chetan Sharma, founder and president at Chetan Sharma Consulting.

Sprint is also doing a complete overhaul of its 3G infrastructure so that customers can enjoy better wireless signal strength, in-building coverage, and fewer dropped and blocked calls. Dropped and blocked calls, though, could become a reality if Sprint can't move fast enough.

Remember the AT&T Drama?

Like many consumers, Henderek still remembers when AT&T had capacity issues, mostly in San Francisco and New York. Dropped calls led to complaints and even threats of lawsuits. Henderek said if Sprint's LTE network fills up too quickly, consumers will start seeing slower than expected data connections and dropped calls.

"If something like that were to happen it would be worrisome," Henderek said. "It hasn't happened yet, but by having less spectrum available for LTE, it's a question of whether Sprint can adapt quick enough to shift things around in a way that would minimize any potential service disruptions or increased in dropped calls."

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

Sad to leave Sprint:

Posted: 2012-09-26 @ 7:42pm PT
I used to love Sprint. I'm not sure why they allowed Verizon & AT&T to surpass them. Not by a little either.... Then they keep lying about when we will get coverage. I'm trying not to switch to another company but it's so hard not to. I spend more time on a blank screen than I do searching the web or on the phone. This is getting ridiculous.

Davehnj:

Posted: 2012-09-19 @ 7:52am PT
What about northern new jersey?

Michael:

Posted: 2012-09-15 @ 11:21pm PT
This time around Sprint is more than real. As one of their Engineers, I can vouch that they are ahead of schedule and by this time next year their Network Vision plans will be fully consummated.

DG79:

Posted: 2012-09-15 @ 5:56pm PT
We don't even have 4G LTE here in the nations capital. Awesome roll-out strategy Sprint

RRockstar:

Posted: 2012-09-11 @ 8:49am PT
Sprint is painfully slow in rolling out LTE. Only one market west of the Rockies? Only LA has bee announced for the entire western half of the USA? no LTE in the Mountain time zone or the northwest? Sprint really messed up big time. Not to mention that they totally ignored San Diego and Phoenix when they rolled out 4G wimax 4 years ago. Now we are expected to believe that they can deliver a nationwide rollout in 2 years? I hope their stock gets hammered because they are already screwing up again with this pathetic rollout schedule.


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