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Full-fledged LTE rollout will be completed in 2013

Sometimes being an early adopter doesn't pay off.  

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) was the first major U.S. carrier to "go 4G" -- launching a 4G modem card way back in Dec. 2008.  But despite that head start, it saw its platform of choice -- WiMAX -- go the way of HD-DVD, as the nation's largest carriers went LTE instead.  Now with Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T, Inc. (T) knee deep in consumer LTE deployments [1][2], Sprint is left playing catch-up.

In a press release Sprint discusses its LTE progress, revealing that it has completed testing in its labs a new platform called "Network Vision", which Sprint will use to rapidly deploy LTE across the country.  Network Vision is a comprehensive platform, which will overhaul Sprint's network, deploying LTE and beefing up existing 3G support.

Sprint describes:

Nationwide, Sprint is overhauling its entire network and replacing existing equipment with the newest, most advanced equipment available in the industry through a program called Network Vision. Announced in December 2010, Network Vision is planned to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network with the goal of increasing efficiency and enhancing network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers.

The carrier also drops a timeframe of when consumers will first get access to "Network Vision" LTE -- mid-2011:

Throughout 2011, Sprint achieved a number of significant milestones in the deployment of Network Vision. It is on track to offer LTE devices by mid-year 2012 and complete the majority of its Network Vision rollout in 2013. Sprint expects to make additional announcements about the timing of LTE markets and devices early next year.

Sprint reports that it has already set up its "back office systems" to support the new LTE base-stations, to allow for a "seamless rollout".

LTE tower
Sprint's back-end is ready for rapid rollout of LTE. [Image Source: Wind River blog]

LTE is not the carrier's sole focus, however.  It has been working heavily to try to beef up its 3G network and keep pace with Verizon's industry-leading coverage.  Sprint writes that it doubled infrastructure investments in 2011 to perform "tens of thousands of capacity upgrades".  The 3G upgrades should both boost data speeds and decrease dropped calls.

Bob Azzi, a Sprint senior vice president comments, "With the network investments we made in 2011 and as the only national wireless carrier to offer truly unlimited data plans while on the Sprint network, we continue to offer better value than Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.  But our commitment to an exceptional wireless experience doesn't stop there. Sprint's on an aggressive path to roll out Network Vision, and in collaboration with our partners, have already achieved many significant milestones that offer improved customer experience on the Sprint 3G network, and we expect to maintain and even accelerate this momentum in 2012."

Sprint is riding high after ranking just a hair behind Verizon Wireless for the distinction of highest U.S. carrier consumer satisfaction on the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index, and for also earning the distinction of being the most improved in customer satisfaction.  Sprint also is celebrating the death of AT&T's bid to acquire Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA.

However, the firm continues to bleed cash quarterly and is faced with the tough prospect of how customers will react to its gradual phase-out of unlimited data.  While Sprint has not given an exact time frame for phase-out of unlimited smartphone data, sources indicate that move could come within a year.  The carrier has already completed the first step in its unlimited cuts, killing unlimited tethering.

Source: Sprint [Press Release via MarketWatch]



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Unlimited
By Gio6518 on 12/28/11, Rating: 0
RE: Unlimited
By Crazyeyeskillah on 12/28/2011 1:49:13 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, i just got verizon's 4gb/mo plan and only use it in wifi mode at local businesses and at home. If i had unlimited i would never turn it off. I would abuse the SHT out of unlimited by just streaming all day long at work and outside of my house. . .unfortunately data speeds are so slow in VERMONT that it would take me almost a month just to download my 4gb max. . .


RE: Unlimited
By Adam M on 12/28/2011 6:59:15 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint continues to push me to another company. At this moment the only things keeping me with Sprint is unlimited data and the remaining 6 months on my commitment. I joined Sprint for the Evo, 4g service and unlimited data. The Evo is now EOL and no longer getting support and will be left behind as a WIMAX phone. My 4g service has been out for a month and the only answer I can get from Sprint is "there is an ongoing issue in your area"(Denver). Now they work toward phasing out unlimited data. Say goodnight Gracie, Verizon is calling my name. I'm sure there will be an Android Razor 2 or equivalent by the time my Sprint contract is up.


RE: Unlimited
By EasyC on 12/29/2011 8:05:21 AM , Rating: 2
How long do you expect a phone to last now-a-days? There are constant new releases. You're lucky they've supported it THIS long.

Enjoy the evil empires when you leave. I'll enjoy my 70$ monthly bill.


RE: Unlimited
By TheRequiem on 12/29/2011 3:08:23 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, Sprint in my mind is the most innovative out of all 4 of them. When Network Vision completes, it'll be one of the most advanced networks in the world. I've heard this directly from an Alcatel-Lucent engineer that was testing a new LTE equipment, they said Sprint will be able to output ridiculous speeds and turn on LTE Advanced with a firmware update... basically a flip of a switch. That's pretty ridiculous when you think about it. They are makign some serious risky moves now, but these are necessary risks they are taking. If they want to be #1 and trust me, they are hungry for it... they will have to have one of the best networks. I also doubt that they will eliminate unlimited data anytime soon, I guess a year might be accurate, but I doubt they will just flip it off on everybody when LTE comes out. I also think that when they move their LTE-Advanced to their 800mhz spectrum in 2013, it will be pretty ridiculously fast, they already had field tests going up to 100mbps easy (while moving). WiMAX is history for those not in the know. They'll run it for 3 - 5 more years in current markets, but eventually that will go bye bye in favor for LTE-Advanced. It was good when it came, but next time someone upgrades, there will only be LTE devices.

All in all, I think Sprint has made significant choices and the right ones. They have a spankin' new network that'll blanket the country in coverage in a year or two, plus nationwide rollot and rapid LTE deployment (we're talking faster then Verizon here folks) and they are offering the best phones people want (a la' iPhone). I think they are positioning themselves for a bright future personally, and let's make no mistake, they are definitely bleeding cash, but they are paying off their debt as well. I'm interested to see how an iPhone 5 with LTE for $70 will sound to everyone compared to everyone else's $100+ plans when they have a competitive network that will perform the same if not better for a lower price.


RE: Unlimited
By Shig on 12/28/2011 1:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, I will miss unlimited data, still got about 16 months on my sprint account.

Here in Chicago the Sprint 4G (3G+) has very good coverage. 4mbps here in chicago as well.

30mbps on a phone is crazy, but realistically I only need those high speeds at home, or until they allow unlimited tethering again (I miss that the most).


RE: Unlimited
By Gio6518 on 12/28/2011 2:09:31 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
30mbps on a phone is crazy


Agreed mostly unnecessary, but lately (last couple months) reliablity has been awful, I've used more data/minutes roaming on Verizon networks than on Sprints. They have also been quietly implementing other new policies, one of which is a $350 early termination fee for smartphones. I'm not confident that I will continue to recieve the quality customer care or service that I have become accustom to with Sprint, I feel pretty confident in order for them to survive not only will they eliminate unlimited, but possibly a price increase. If I have to pay as much as Verizon or AT&T and not recieve the coverage or speeds that they give, I don't see a reason to stay with them...


RE: Unlimited
By ShaolinSoccer on 12/28/2011 6:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I've seen AT&T LTE getting 30mbps compared to Sprints WIMAX getting 4mbps if any signal at all (in Orlando/Kissimmee).


Geezuz, you're complaining about 4mbps? I'm getting 1.2mbps to 1.6mbps on 3G with Sprint and can watch high quality youtube videos. Are you sure 4mbps is slow? That's 4 million bits per second. Which is 500kB/s (bytes per second). How the hell can that be "slow"?! 56k modems are slow which is only 56 thousand bits per second...


RE: Unlimited
By Gio6518 on 12/28/2011 8:57:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Geezuz, you're complaining about 4mbps? I'm getting 1.2mbps to 1.6mbps on 3G with Sprint and can watch high quality youtube videos.


That was best case scenario, usually I'm lucky to get 1mbps, theres been times as of late I have full bars and 3G lit up on my EVO 3D and its somewhere between 500-700kbps I've seen as low as 10kbps in areas where I used to get around 1.5-2 mbps. I used to LOVE Sprint but lately the whole family has been complaining about speed and dropped calls.


I don't understand
By Dorkyman on 12/28/2011 2:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
Could someone please explain to me about LTE?

I understand that it's for higher data bandwidth to phones, but haven't studies recently come out showing that LTE destroys local GPS reception? In other words, how could LTE be rolled out at all, given the negative effect on GPS users?




RE: I don't understand
By SunLord on 12/28/2011 2:36:48 PM , Rating: 2
LTE is a cellurlar standard and LTE itself has no effect on GPS the problem is the brilliant FCC sold spectrum to a company to deploy a wireless/cellular network on with out bothering to see if it would interfere with the halfassed implementation of civilian GPS signal located right next to it in the spectrum and then years later when the company is getting around to launching it becomes a big issue and of course is the companies fault.

Anyways Sprint is using the 1900MHz band for it's LTE deployment which will not interfere with GPS at all and only the upper half of spectrum used by Light Squares purposed LTE network with Satellite back haul would mess up GPS. It's a rather lame story with blame to go around FCC for not doing it's job and GPS makers for cheapening out on quality of GPS recivers


RE: I don't understand
By mcnabney on 12/28/2011 5:13:01 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I was wondering how Sprint was going to move to LTE in mid-2012. I thought Light Squared WAS the method that Sprint would use to deploy LTE? Now that Light Squared's lousy and interference riddled spectrum has been squashed, how on earth will Sprint deploy an LTE network?

I kind of assumed Sprint would crater next year since they have ordered so many iPhones and the iPhone5 will be LTE. Without LTE, who would buy a Sprint iPhone5 since it would fall all the way back to EVDO for data.


RE: I don't understand
By DRoseman on 12/29/2011 1:33:38 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint is deploying LTE on its 1900 spectrum using multimodal technology on it's sites via Network Vision deployments. Multimodal will enable multiple spectrums and technologies to be supported on the same sites and more importantly it provides the ability to support subsequent spectrum by adding antennae rather than new base stations. This opens up a new line of wholesale business with agreements like LightSquared 4G hosting. For more on what Sprint has accomplished in 2011 and where they're headed: http://newsroom.sprint.com/article_display.cfm?art...

The LightSquared agreement is a wholesale hosting agreement to deploy LightSquare's spectrum on Sprint's sites. No plans have been announced for Sprint to leverage that deployment as part of its LTE network. http://newsroom.sprint.com/article_display.cfm?art...

On the otherhand, Sprint and Clearwire have announced an agreement to leverage Clearwire's planned 2012 LTE deployment on 2.5 GHz as capacity overflow beginning sometime in 2013.http://newsroom.sprint.com/article_display.cfm?art...

There is no doubt that Sprint has an extremely aggressive timeline for deploying LTE, beginning in mid-2012; but it's entirely possible because of the multimodal Network Vision deployments. And keep in mind that Sprint has an extremely successful track record for meeting it's stated goals in the face of overwhelming odds. For example it was only about five years ago that Sprint had the worst reputation for customer service but now are now neck in neck with Verizon, earning the distinction of most improved. Sprint focused on deploying WiMAX to more than 110M pops and worked with Clearwire to make that happen and so were first to market with 4G. Sprint focused on reducing churn and has posted some of the lowest churn % in years -- hoping to further reduce those numbers by eliminating one of the most common reason customers leave -- the iPhone. (Although plans for iPhone 5 have not been publicly announced, if it is released with LTE, then Sprint's customers will benefit from the 2012-2013 LTE deployment.) And now they're focusing on the future of their customers' needs with a technology that's flexible enough to be upgraded and expanded in the most efficient way possible.

It would be a mistake to count Sprint out not only because they're the little engine that could; but because they're the only telecom company that truly advocates for their customers. The best example of this is that they stood alone amongst their competitors in the opposition of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger which has finally died. That merger would have created a duopoly effectively shutting down competition and slowing the need for developing innovative solutions for customers including not just technology; but pricing options.


RE: I don't understand
By TheRequiem on 12/29/2011 3:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
1900mhz "initially"... in the first half of 2013 when iden goes bye bye, they will be moving it to alarger spectrum in their 800mhz range and upgrading to LTE-Advanced.

http://www.mobileburn.com/17233/news/sprint-deploy...


RE: I don't understand
By TheRequiem on 12/29/2011 3:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
Also, they will be moving their CDMA services off of 1900mhz and launching VoLTE (Voice over LTE). Also, not first half, it will be the very beginning of 2013 apparently when all this happens, so in about a year from now give or take a few months.


Paid obsolescence
By djc208 on 12/29/2011 10:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
Good to know my extra $10/month 4G fee is being used to make my 4G phone obsolete instead of better supported.

I'm seriously wondering why I would want to stay with them.




RE: Paid obsolescence
By DRoseman on 12/29/2011 1:43:18 PM , Rating: 2
Your $10 fee is being used to improve the network through Network Vision and capacity enhancements; and provide you with the best and newest technologies available to you. Let me ask you this? What technology have you ever owned that wasn't obsolete within a year or two? Did you keep your old vhs tapes or did you upgrade to DVD or laser? Cell phone technology is no different than any other. Most customers upgrade every two to three years. That said, your WiMax 4G will be supported for a long time to come... through at least 2015. http://newsroom.sprint.com/article_display.cfm?art...

Why wouldn't you want to be with a technology company that is poised to evolve and grow with the latest and not just be pidgeon-holed into a single technology?


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