OVERLAND PARK, Kan.--Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) executives are confident the carrier will be able to market its forthcoming LTE network as a national service on par with the LTE offerings from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), despite the fact that the two larger carriers have bigger LTE networks and more devices.
Paget Alves, Sprint's chief sales officer, told reporters at a briefing here at Sprint's corporate headquarters that Sprint had to be careful in marketing Clearwire's (NASDAQ:CLWR) mobile WiMAX network because the network only covered select major markets. He said Sprint plans to take its LTE network nationwide through an aggressive rollout, which will allow the carrier to market it on a national scale. "We can set expectations this will be a national service," he said.
Sprint plans launch LTE in Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City and San Antonio, Texas, by mid-year. The carrier expects to cover 123 million POPs with LTE by year-end, and 250 million POPs with LTE by the end of 2013. Verizon's LTE network currently covers more than 200 million POPs, and Verizon plans to increase coverage to 260 million POPs by year-end. AT&T will boost its LTE network coverage from around 74 million POPs today to 150 million by year-end.
Alves also said Sprint can leverage AT&T and Verizon's LTE marketing efforts. "I don't think we'll have any difficulty marketing LTE because it has been established in the consumers' mind as a feature or function you want to have in your device," he said. Alves added that Sprint plans to continue offering unlimited smartphone data via LTE, which will help set the carrier apart from its competition.
Interestingly, both Alves and Fared Adib, vice president of products at Sprint, stressed that the company is doing more to educate consumers about how they can offload their traffic onto Wi-Fi networks. Adib said that the company has introduced a solution on some of its smartphones called "connection optimizer." The intelligent client can recognize if a smartphone repeatedly picks up a particular Wi-Fi hotspot, say, in a person's home. The service will then ask the customer if they want to connect to the hotspot, but will not proactively turn off cellular data service, Adib said. The goal of the client, which will be introduced in more high-end and mid-range devices this year, is to make using Wi-Fi easier.
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