Attention residents of Atlanta, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas: You will soon have three LTE carriers to choose from.
That's because Sprint has announced plans to launch its own LTE services in those four cities in the first quarter. Sprint will be the third major wireless carrier in the U.S. to operate its own LTE network, following Verizon and AT&T.
Sprint has been inching toward supporting LTE for many months, as the carrier has made several deals with other service providers to get spectrum necessary to support both LTE and its WiMAX network. This past summer Sprint struck a deal with wireless broadband and satellite network provider LightSquared to deploy and operate a nationwide LTE network that will use a 40MHz chunk of spectrum on the 1.6GHz band. Even though LightSquared will be wholesaling access to the LTE network, Sprint will still have the option to enhance its own 4G capacity by purchasing "up to 50% of LightSquared's expected L-Band 4G capacity" to use for its own services.
Additionally, Sprint's WiMAX partner Clearwire said last year that it was looking to deploy an LTE network alongside its WiMAX network if it could raise enough capital to support a new build-out. Clearwire's initial plans are to deploy LTE in markets that experience high levels of wireless traffic, presumably to provide some additional capacity to its biggest markets.
LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is essentially a bridge from 3G technologies such as HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A to the 4G IMT-Advanced technologies that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says will deliver consistent speeds in the 100Mbps range. Verizon became the first major U.S. carrier to deploy LTE in late 2010 when it launched the technology in 38 major markets covering roughly one-third of the U.S. population. AT&T followed suit this past summer when it launched LTE in Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. The carrier has steadily been expanding the reach of its own LTE network ever since, as this past week saw AT&T launch LTE in New York, San Francisco and other major markets.