Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) officially launched its LTE network on July 15, becoming the third Tier 1 carrier to offer LTE service and beginning its efforts to catch up with larger rivals Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) in LTE device selection and coverage.
Now that three of the four Tier 1 carriers are offering LTE service, it's worth taking some time to sort through how much each carrier charges for LTE (to make matters simple, we'll only be looking at LTE service pricing).
Thus, the following chart compares, in an apples-to-apples fashion, what individuals and families can expect to pay for LTE smartphones. The comparison takes into account the recent shared data offerings from AT&T and Verizon.
To be clear, we're not providing a comprehensive view of all the pricing options each carrier offers. Instead, we're picking two basic scenarios: an individual user who consumes an average amount of voice and data, and a family of three who have opted for an unlimited voice and texting plan and a shared data plan (where available). Since Sprint doesn't offer shared data, the Sprint example used for the family plans is a Simply Everything Family plan ($189.99 for the first two lines and $89.99 for a third line). However, it should be noted that Sprint offers cheaper family plan options that do not all have unlimited calling (its Everything Data Family plans have 1,500 and 3,000-minute options, for example). All Sprint plans, however, still offer unlimited smartphone data, unlike the shared data plans at Verizon and AT&T.
Here is how the plans compare:
Of course, an LTE comparison is not just about price--it's about coverage as well. Verizon just revealed that its LTE network covers 230 million people, or around 75 percent of the U.S. population. AT&T's LTE network covers more than 74 million people. Sprint has not given an exact population coverage figure, but has turned on LTE service in five major metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio. Sprint also detailed the smaller markets around those areas that now have LTE coverage. The full list includes: Atlanta, Athens, Calhoun, Carrollton, Newnan and Rome, Ga.; Dallas, Fort Worth, Granbury-Hood County, Houston, Huntsville, San Antonio and Waco, Texas; Kansas City, in both Missouri and Kansas; and St. Joseph, Mo.
By the end of the year, Verizon expects to cover 260 million people with LTE, AT&T expects to cover 150 million and Sprint expects to cover 123 million. Below is a map of LTE coverage provided to FierceWireless by Mosaik Solutions (formerly American Roamer), showing the LTE coverage of Verizon and AT&T, and where the two carriers overlap. Due to the nascent nature of Sprint's LTE deployment, Mosaik was unable to add Sprint coverage to the map, though curious readers can find Sprint's LTE coverage here.
Here is the map (click here for a larger version):