Sprint ushers in LTE roaming era with 3 inbound, 2 outbound agreements

Sprint (NYSE:S) currently has a total of three operational inbound LTE roaming agreements, and has inked contracts with two providers for outbound roaming, according to internal Sprint documents obtained by FierceWireless.

Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter confirmed the existence of LTE roaming agreements but declined to provide additional details, including which wireless providers the agreements are with.

Sprint's three inbound roaming agreements allow the customers of other wireless carriers to roam onto Sprint's growing LTE network. Two of those agreements are likely with C Spire Wireless and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP). In April, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said the carrier is working with regional operator C Spire Wireless to enable LTE roaming across multiple spectrum bands. And also in May executives from Cricket provider Leap strongly hinted that the company's previously announced LTE roaming deal is with Sprint.

Sprint's two outboard roaming agreements will allow the carrier's customers to roam onto the LTE networks of the two participating carriers. The two outbound roaming agreements have been finalized but have not yet been implemented. It's possible Sprint's outbound roaming agreements are with the same providers that it has inbound roaming agreements with.

Wireless providers generally don't disclose the details of their roaming agreements.

Roaming agreements are relatively commonplace for 2G and 3G services, but 4G LTE roaming agreements are still in their infancy as U.S. operators work to launch and build out their LTE networks before embarking on roaming transactions. U.S. LTE roaming agreements are further complicated by the fact that LTE services in the United States stretch across a wide number of bands: For example, although both carriers operate CDMA networks, Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) LTE network currently runs on its 700 MHz spectrum and the carrier plans to expand LTE to its AWS spectrum, while Sprint offers LTE service on its 1900 MHz spectrum and plans to expand service to its 800 MHz and 2.5 GHz spectrum.

Sprint's outbound LTE roaming deals likely will help expand the carrier's LTE coverage area. Sprint has said it expects to cover 200 million POPs with its LTE network by the end of this year.

Interestingly, Sprint isn't the only carrier pursuing LTE roaming deals: Rogers in Canada announced an LTE roaming agreement with AT&T Mobility. 

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Article updated Sept. 30 to include information about Rogers' roaming with AT&T