Sprint’s plans to migrate its 4G server from its current WiMax standard to the more common LTE already in use by Verizon and AT&T. The move should allow Sprint to offer LTE iPads as well as future LTE iPhones. That’s good new for the carrier and Sprint customers.
Unfortunately, there’s also some bad news. Sprint’s LTE network won’t be able to match the performance of its competitors.
Sprint’s network Senior Vice President, Bob Azzi was on hand at this week’s CTIA conference in New Orleans to talk about Sprint’s overall strategy for both 3G and 4G service. In describing the wireless channels that the company is devoting to LTE Azzi told PCMag that Sprint will, at least initially, be using narrower 5MHz channels compared to the broader 10MHz used by other carriers. Azzi said that this will keep Sprint users from getting peak connection speeds as fast as Verizon and AT&T customers whose peak connection speeds can reach 30-40Mbps.
Instead, Sprint said that it plans focus on delivering consistency and convenience more than reaching peak performance. Among other things that means delivering a reliable network and reducing issues surrounding the handoff between LTE and 3G towers. That handover can take minutes on some devices when they leave the range of LTE service and switch over to 3G. Sprint has already said that it will offer an unlimited LTE data plan for future iPhones.
Sprint didn’t offer any LTE performance data and didn’t say whether the it would eventually use broader channels for LTE service. The company also avoided answering questions about its time table for rolling out LTE service to new markets. Currently Sprint only supports LTE in six cities.
Sprint executives also pointed out that the company is committed to providing better service for iPhone 4/4S users. The company is shifting voice calling to bandwidth previously used for Nextel messaging to open up more spectrum in the bands used for 3G devices. This will allow Sprint to increase performance of the iPhone without requiring Apple to build in support for another frequency range. T-Mobile’s use of unusual frequency bands for 3G service is a major reason that it remains the only national U.S. carrier not offering the iPhone.