Sprint is moving towards LTE and will cover 120 million people by the end of 2012; but it’s pace is slower than expected. Sprint’s CFO Joseph Euteneuer said the wireless carrier will probably roll out its 4G lineup in the second half of the year, a few months later than their original mid-summer target. This late launch date will put the carrier well behind its rivals Verizon and AT&T.
Verizon launched its 4G LTE network in December 2010 and ended its first year on a positive note. The carrier expects to cover 200 million Americans in 190 markets by December 15. It’s also offering 16 LTE-enabled smartphones, tablets, notebooks, hotspots and modems. AT&T is behind Verizon in the LTE market, but is progressing quickly. The carrier plans to launch 4G LTE in 15 cities and reach 70 million Americans by the end of 2011. It has 3 LTE smartphones including the HTC Vivid, the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and the LG Nitro HD.
Sprint originally partnered with Clearwire to launch a 4G WiMAX network, but the carrier decided to slowly drop this technology and move to LTE. A switch to this new 4G technology will take time, but there are several outside influences slowing Sprint down. Sprint is still nursing Clearwire through its financial struggles and recently agreed to help the 4G provider satisfy an unpaid debt obligation. It’s also actively fighting the merger of T-Mobile and AT&T, which has probably been a distraction for the carrier over the past several months.
Sprint may be lagging in the 4G world, but it’s handling of unlimited data plans is exceptional. CFO Euteneuer confirmed Sprint will keep its unlimited plans and hopes to do more with unlimited in the future. Of course, this won’t extend to LTE, but offering unlimited 3G and WiMAX plans may be enough to keep many customers from jumping ship until Sprint’s a bit more competitive in the LTE market.