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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 12/28/2011 1:13:07 PM , Rating: 0
quote:
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.


I'd say bye-bye

as of late Sprint data speeds have been extremely slow and unreliable, but in those times price along with unlimited data have kept me with them. If they're eliminating their edge of unlimited data, IMO will cost them alot of customers along with myself.

I've seen AT&T LTE getting 30mbps compared to Sprints WIMAX getting 4mbps if any signal at all (in Orlando/Kissimmee).




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.


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