At an event in New York today, Sprint announced that they plan to launch LTE-enabled devices by the middle of 2012, with 15 due to drop by the time 2013 rolls around. We’ve already heard rumours that Sprint’s LTE network would be lighting up early next year, and this schedule lines up pretty nicely. WiMAX is still very much a part of the picture, and during the presentation, Sprint illustrated a transition period where both technologies would be supported simultaneously, eventually leading to a full switch to LTE. In fact, Sprint said that they intend to sell WiMAX devices right through until the end of 2012. Dual-mode devices will attempt to make use of both 3G and 4G networks during that time. Even the 3G side will be getting some loving with something called 1X Advanced, which will improve the efficiency of voice traffic and free up bandwidth for data. One slide said that Sprint would be offering “the latest, most advanced LTE”, suggesting that they would be jumping right to LTE Advanced - something which was, once upon a time, the first real step into 4G. Sprint may end up acquiring their WiMAX partner, Clearwire, to push through to LTE, but for now, the two just have a $1 billion agreement until the end of 2012.
There were a lot of questions at the event surrounding the iPhone 4S, and how it would help the service provider retain users, but of course execs dodged giving any real guidance about how any deals with Apple will affect their financials. In any case, it’s good to see Sprint making some commitments to their LTE schedule – they’ll certainly need to have all their ducks in a row to compete with Verizon and a potential monster if T-Mobile and AT&T end up merging.