Sprint to deploy LTE in five cities July 15

Carrier will expand LTE network throughout 2012
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Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will begin deploying LTE service in five markets starting July 15, the company said, as it starts its race to catch up to larger rivals Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T).

Sprint will deploy LTE in five cities starting July 15.

Sprint will initially launch LTE service in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio, with more markets to be announced later this year. While Baltimore previously had been named one of Sprint's initial markets, it will not be one of the first. Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter said that Baltimore will get LTE later this summer and that Sprint is working to get as many markets online as fast as possible but wants to make sure the user experience is of the highest quality.

"Verizon and AT&T have a head start in LTE, but hopefully we will close the gap pretty soon," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said in an interview with Bloomberg. "We will be pushing hard to get more markets launched as soon as we possibly can."

Coverage will be a key issue for Sprint as it tries to keep pace with Verizon and AT&T. Sprint expects to cover 123 million POPs with LTE by year-end, and 250 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2013. Verizon's LTE network, which launched in December 20120, covers two-thirds of the U.S. population, and the company plans to cover 260 million POPs with LTE by year-end. AT&T's LTE network, which launched in September 2011, now covers more than 74 million POPs and AT&T expects to cover around 150 million POPs by year-end.

So far Sprint has announced five LTE devices, including the HTC Evo 4G LTE, LG Viper, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S III and a Sierra Wireless Tri-Fi Hotspot, which supports Sprint's LTE and EV-DO networks and  Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network.

In terms of spectrum, Sprint is deploying LTE in a 5 MHz x 5 MHz configuration of 1900 MHz PCS spectrum. Verizon and AT&T are, for the most part, using 10 MHz x 10 MHz of 700 MHz spectrum for their networks, which will give them a speed advantage over Sprint in most markets. PC Magazine reported last week that Sprint's LTE network in Atlanta compared favorably in terms of speeds to markets where AT&T has only 10 MHz of spectrum.

However, Sprint executives have said the company's LTE network will deliver speeds comparable to those of Verizon and AT&T, which advertise average downlink speeds of 5-12 Mbps and uplink speeds of 2-5 Mbps. Sprint also plans to deploy LTE in its 800 MHz spectrum in 2014.

The LTE deployment is one piece of Sprint's larger Network Vision network modernization plan.The plan, centered around new multi-mode base stations, includes the improvement of Sprint's CDMA EV-DO network as well as the shutdown of Sprint's iDEN network and the introduction of a new CDMA push-to-talk service.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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Article updated 5:30 p.m., June 28, 2012, to reflect the nature of the spectrum configurations of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint's LTE deployments.