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Coverage is limited to Texas, Georgia, Kansas, and Missourri

It may not be the nation's largest LTE network, but it's a start.  Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) announced late Monday that it had powered up the first branches of its LTE network.  America's third largest carrier joins AT&T, Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless (a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD)) in embracing the most popular next generation communications standard.

The initial coverage regions for Sprint include:
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Athens, Ga.
  • Calhoun, Ga.
  • Carrollton, Ga.
  • Newnan, Ga.
  • Rome, Ga.
  • Dallas, Tex.
  • Fort Worth, Tex.
  • Granbury-Hood County, Tex.
  • Houston, Tex.
  • Huntsville, Tex.
  • San Antonio, Tex.
  • Waco, Tex.
  • Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
  • St. Joseph, Mo.
Sprint started the 4G race ahead of Verizon and AT&T, launching a WiMAX network in Sept. 2008.  At the time, Sprint could brag that it was the nation's fastest carrier in some regions, and it looked to profit-take off that lead, charging its 4G customers a $10-per-month "high-speed data" fee.

But in Dec. 2010 Verizon unleashed its response.  Unlike Sprint's network, Verizon's used LTE, a rival standard that enjoyed some technical advantages over WiMAX.  Quickly it bumped coverage to over 200 million Americans.  It was followed in Sept. 2011 by AT&T, whose network covered less people, but was shown to be faster in independent testing.

Catching wind of the upcoming AT&T LTE rollout, Sprint in July 2011 committed to an LTE rollout.  Sprint's original plan was to supplement ground-based coverage with a satellite LTE offering, but those plans took a hit when partner LightSquared was accused of crippling GPS interference and "bribing" politicians to try to gloss over the glaring technical flaws.  LightSquared subsequently went belly-up, and Sprint was left navigating the LTE waters on its own.
Sprint EVO 4G LTe
Sprint offers several LTE-capable handsets, including the EVO 4G LTE from
HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and the Galaxy S III.

Today Sprint desparately needs some sort of a boost.  It was found to be the slowest carrier in recent speed tests.  And it's still charging the same old $10 WiMAX fees for many Android smartphone users.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's bleeding customers by the bucket-full.

Verizon's LTE coverage is approaching 260 million Americans and 300+ cities.  AT&T's effort is at about 80 million Americans and 50 cities.  Sprint hopes to cover 250 million Americans with LTE by the end of 2013.

In other words, Sprint is about a year behind Verizon.  However, it's also the only carrier with no data caps or data overage fees, so if it can live up to its ambitious roll-out, it could once again provide a compelling alternative to America's top two carriers -- Verizon and AT&T -- as it did back in the heyday of its WiMAX era.

Sprint's highest profile LTE compatible handset is the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich-powered Galaxy S III, which launched on June 21, courtesy of Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930).  That was followed by the white-edition HTC EVO 4G LTE, which went on sale on Sunday, priced at $199.99 USD, after an initial launch on June 2.

Sources: Sprint [1], [2]

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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By H8ff0000 on 7/17/2012 11:05:02 AM , Rating: 2
I might be overlooking something, but isn't the following statement made towards the end of the article wrong?:

"Sprint's first LTE compatible handset is the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich-powered HTC EVO 4G LTE. It went on sale on Sunday, priced at $199.99 USD."

The Samsung Galaxy S III was released prior to the HTC EVO 4G LTE.

RE: Error?
By Newspapercrane on 7/17/2012 11:24:12 AM , Rating: 2
I've had my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S III LTE since June 21st...

RE: Error?
By Newspapercrane on 7/17/2012 11:26:43 AM , Rating: 2
Also, I'm pretty sure the Galaxy Nexus was out even before the SGS III... and they just dropped the price to $99.

RE: Error?
By JasonMick on 7/17/2012 11:25:21 AM , Rating: 3
Yup, that was a mistake, fixed, thanks!

RE: Error?
By mcnabney on 7/17/2012 11:55:16 AM , Rating: 3
You might also want to reconsider using an LTE speed comparison between Verizon and AT&T that was done immediately after AT&T turned LTE on. An LTE network that has been activating millions of LTE devices over the previous year might have a bit more traffic on it than one that was just turned on. Surely a more recent comparison test has been done.

RE: Error?
By Camikazi on 7/17/2012 11:32:40 AM , Rating: 2
LG Viper 4G is LTE enabled and came out in April alongside the Galaxy Nexus which is also an LTE phone.

RE: Error?
By nkf on 7/17/2012 11:37:16 AM , Rating: 2
The EVO 4G was supposed to be released on May 18, but actually came out around June 2 (according to the web, and that is consistent with when I remember getting mine). Definitely before the Galaxy S III, though

RE: Error?
By Camikazi on 7/17/2012 11:40:24 AM , Rating: 2
Nexus and Viper were still out in April and both LTE though.

RE: Error?
By bigboxes on 7/17/2012 10:55:48 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, the EVO 4G LTE was released first, even with the delay (thanks Apple).

RE: Error?
By really on 7/18/2012 7:32:49 PM , Rating: 2
The HTC Evo 4G LTE was release a month prior to the Samsung Galaxy S III. I know I almost bought the EVO as an upgrade but then the S III announcement was made and I pre-ordered it and have it in my possession.

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