Sprint’s going to launch a 4G LTE network this summer that’ll initially cover five to six cities. By the end of the year, Sprint expects to cover over 123 million Americans, and by the end of next year they expect that figure to climb to 250 million Americans. To put that number into some perspective, Verizon covers more than 200 million people right now, as in today, and they expect to reach 260 million people by the end this Christmas. AT&T covers less than 75 million people today with 4G LTE, but they say they’ll double that by the close of the year. So is Sprint catching up to the big boys? Hardly. According to Bob Azzi, Senior Vice President of Sprint’s Network, he says: “2014 is the big year.”
What happens in 2014? Sprint is going to turn on 4G LTE in the 800 MHz band. That spectrum is currently being used for iDEN, better known as push to talk. Less than 6 million people are currently using that network, which means that prime real estate spectrum is being underutilized. Once Sprint moves some of their 4G LTE to that band however, they’ll be much better able to compete with the likes of AT&T and Verizon, who own spectrum in the 700 MHz band. Sprint’s network will use half the amount of spectrum (5 MHz down, 5 MHz up) that AT&T and Verizon use (both do 10 MHz down, 10 MHz up), but Sprint has half the number of customers, so … less load equals more speed? We’ll find out.
Should you care about any of this? That’s debatable. We’ve always questioned the usefulness of 4G LTE on a smartphone. This writer is on a data plan that’s capped at 1 megabit per second down and he’s never thought to himself that it was somehow “slow”. If you’re the “must share every piece of media I capture on the three or more social networks I use” type, then yes, you’ll probably appreciate the higher upload speeds that 4G LTE offers.
[Additional Reading: Fierce Wireless]