Sprint snubbed in Apple's debut of LTE iPad

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) is not among the carriers lined up to offer the next version of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) popular iPad, which will be the first Apple device to support LTE networks. The device will go on sale March 16.  

Apple named AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) as its launch partners in the United States. Verizon's LTE network now covers more than 200 million POPs and AT&T's network covers 74 million. There will be two different versions of the device in the U.S. market to support the different 700 MHz band classes that AT&T and Verizon use. Sprint will not launch its LTE network until mid-year in up to 10 cities.

Sprint became the third major U.S. carrier to sell Apple's iPhone last fall, and Sprint has committed to paying Apple $15.5 billion over a four-year contract for the iPhone. It's unclear whether Sprint will be added as a partner for the LTE-enabled iPad after it launches its LTE network. Sprint has said that around 15 LTE devices, including handsets, tablets and data cards, are on track to be launched in 2012. The carrier plans to have 123 million LTE POPs covered by the end of 2012 and 250 million to 277 million POPs covered with LTE by the end of 2013.

"At this time, Sprint is not a carrier for Apple's iPad products," Sprint spokesman Mark Elliott told FierceWireless. "We have nothing to announce at this time."

Though there may be business reasons behind's Sprint iPad absence, the situation may also be technical. Sprint plans to deploy LTE technology in the G-Block of the 1900 MHz band--whereas AT&T and Verizon are deploying LTE in the 700 MHz and AWS bands.

Sprint also does not offer the iPad 2. Apple offers an HSPA version of the iPad 2 through AT&T and an EV-DO version through Verizon. 

Many observers have said that the inclusion of LTE in the iPad could be a precursor for the addition of LTE to the iPhone later this year. For now, Apple said the new iPad will support 21 Mbps HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA at 42 Mbps, with theoretical LTE support topping out at 73 Mbps. The gadget can also be used as a personal hotspot if carriers support that feature.

For more:
- see this release
- see this The Verge  live blog
- see this AllthingsD live blog
- see this Engadget live blog

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