Print 17 comment(s) - last by TheRequiem.. on Dec 29 at 3:20 PM

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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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.

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