One year after unveiling its Network Vision strategy to build out LTE alongside its WiMAX network and retire Nextel's old iDEN network, Sprint has announced the deployment of its first multi-modal WiMAX/LTE base station and its first LTE network cluster.
The carrier also indicated in a year-end statement that it is planning to introduce new LTE devices by the middle of this year. It will announce its first LTE markets early this year, and hopes to complete most of the LTE rollout in 2013. That timing may be vexing to a market that already has seen many LTE market launches and plenty of LTE devices from other carriers, but for now, Sprint seems content to compete on its unlimited data plan proclamations, rather than actual network strengths.
Though Sprint has been talking up its LTE rollout as having aggressive timing, the carrier further demonstrated its lack of rush a few days ago when it gave LTE partner LightSquared a 30-day extension on the deadline by which it was to gain FCC approval for its LTE spectrum strategy. Sprint is not acting like a company that is behind in the LTE race.
Sprint's first multi-modal base station is in Branchburg, N.J., while its first LTE network cluster is located in Kankakee, Ill., about 50 miles south of Chicago. The multi-modal capability will help Sprint keep its WiMAX network alive into the middle of the present decade.
Sprint also noted in its year-end statement that it had finished all lab testing for the LTE rollout during 2011, as well as back office upgrades necessary to support the new network.
- see this Sprint release
Here's a broader look at the industry's LTE rollout
Sprint's LTE plans include LightSquared and Clearwire