By Mark Long / Mobile Tech Today. Updated June 27, 2012.
Sprint will launch its first high-speed 4G LTE networks in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio beginning July 15. Sprint customers in those five metropolitan markets will be able to use Sprint's lineup of 4G LTE smartphones to access the Web at superfast speeds.
"Sprint expects average download speeds of 6 to 8 megabits per second, with peak speeds of 25 Mbps," a company spokesperson said Wednesday. "Upload speeds are expected to be 2 to 3 Mbps."
Sprint also said Wednesday that the addition of Network Vision in U.S. metropolitan markets will bring significant enhancements to the carrier's existing 3G service coverage.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said subscribers could expect to experience better signal strength, fewer dropped/blocked calls, faster data speeds, expanded coverage and better overall performance as the improvements rolled out.
"The performance of both the 4G LTE and improved 3G networks are exceeding our expectations and we are pleased with the progress of the entire Network Vision program," Hesse said.
Compatible Handsets Available Now
Sprint already sells four smartphone models that will be compatible with the carrier's 4G LTE network. The low-cost LG Viper 4G LTE is priced at $100, while the HTC EVO 4G LTE, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Samsung's new Galaxy S III are all priced at $200.
A Sprint spokesperson said Wednesday that the wireless carrier does not plan to introduce any smartphones that include both 4G LTE and WiMAX connectivity options -- though all of the company's 4G LTE handsets will also include 3G. However, Sprint has introduced a tri-mode hotspot accessory from Sierra Wireless that does support 4G WiMAX, 4G LTE and 3G network connections.
Sprint is currently the only top-tier U.S. carrier with no data service throttling, metering or overage fees. On Sprint's new 4G LTE network, also known as the carrier's Network Vision program, customers will be able to continue to subscribe to unlimited data, texting and calling plans that begin at $80 per month.
Turning the Business Around
Sprint said it would launch 4G LTE in other U.S. metropolitan markets this year, depending on how much capital the carrier has to invest.
According to Piper Jaffray, Sprint has a lot of moving parts in play, including Network Vision, the shutdown of its old push-to-talk Nextel network, and a potential iPhone upgrade this autumn.
"We believe management wants to be patient before it revises guidance," noted Piper Jaffray analysts Christopher Larsen, Joseph Mastrogiovanni and Bradley Korch.
The investment firm's analysts believe Sprint management has developed the appropriate strategy to turn the business around.
"If the company continues to outpace its forecast, we wouldn't be surprised to see it accelerate Network Vision or the Nextel decommissioning, which would result in higher 2012 costs," Larsen, Mastrogiovanni and Korch wrote in an investor note.
Sprint expects its nationwide rollout of 4G LTE services to be largely completed by the end of 2013, at which point they will be available to 250 million people.