Report: Sprint's LTE coverage far less than advertised

It is no secret that Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is really just getting started on its LTE rollout, but the operator apparently has a long way to go in terms of coverage even in the handful of markets where it has launched service, according to Advanced Frequency Engineering (AFE).

Sprint LTE map

Click the chart for a comparison of Sprint's advertised vs. observed LTE coverage in Dallas.

The consulting firm said it tested the availability and performance of LTE services offered in Dallas/Fort Worth, Kansas City and Atlanta by Sprint, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T), and it found Sprint's coverage coming up short in all three markets.

That should not be too shocking given the nascent stage of Sprint's LTE deployment. What could be a major sticking point, however, is the fact that the actual coverage fell drastically short of the coverage Sprint had been advertising to the public, according to AFE.

"The results of site surveys and 4G LTE availability tests show that while Verizon and AT&T had ubiquitous LTE availability in the test markets, Sprint LTE service was not present or not accessible in 75-90 percent of Sprint's advertised LTE coverage area in the cities tested at time of testing," said AFE.

The Dallas market, in particular, had much spottier real-life coverage than what was shown on Sprint's availability map, said AFE.

Sprint spokespersons did not respond to FierceBroadbandWireless' request for comment on the AFE report.

The consultancy released the following results from its coverage tests, which assessed LTE availability using Samsung Galaxy S III LTE handsets without power-cycling.

 

Sprint

Verizon

AT&T

Dallas (mid-August)

10%

100%

100%

Fort Worth (mid-August)

20%

100%

100%

Kansas City (mid-August)

25%

100%

100%

Atlanta (early-September)

15%

100%

100%

AFE said its tests involved 1,000 miles of drive testing, plus extensive testing at fixed locations using the Samsung handsets and other drive-test and spectrum analyzer equipment.

Sprint launched its LTE network in July in a handful of markets, but the carrier expects to cover 123 million POPs by year-end. The carrier announced on Sept. 10 that the rollout of its LTE network is underway in more than 100 additional cities within its existing nationwide 3G footprint.

For more:
- see this AFE release

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