Great news Sprint customers, your carrier has just officially joined the LTE party. As expected, the company flipped the switch on its next-generation network in 5 markets this weekend.
Believe it or not, this is actually Sprint’s second attempt at launching a 4G network. Back in 2008, the carrier took a gamble on WiMAX technology. But obviously, that didn’t quite work out…
LTE, however, is expected to put Sprint back on the map. Not only does it qualify the company for a future iPad partnership, but it could help it land the LTE iPhone this fall, assuming one appears.
Of course, it still has some major work to do before then. With just 5 areas active — Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Kansas City, and Atlanta — Sprint’s LTE network is 40 markets behind AT&T, and nearly 300 behind Verizon. That’s a pretty big gap to fill.
Early speed tests aren’t looking good either. The carrier is promising customers just 6-8 mbps download, and 2-3 mbps up at launch — far from the 18/26 users have been seeing with AT&T, and the 30/16 with Verizon.
But Sprint still has at least one ace up its sleeve. A few months ago, a spokesperson confirmed that customers would be able to keep their unlimited data plans when switching to LTE — something that isn’t being matched by the competition. The company reaffirms this decision in its LTE launch video:
Sprint plans to roll out LTE to several more markets this year, and is hoping to have largely completed its nationwide 4G network by the end of 2013. Whether or not this will be enough to score the LTE versions of the next iPhone and iPad, however, still remains to be seen.