Sprint 4G LTE network tested ahead of launch, not perfect but found promising

by: Chris SmithJune 19, 2012
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Sprint, the nation’s third largest mobile operator will also be the third carrier of the Big Four to roll out its 4G LTE network in the country, with the company expected to turn on its high-speed data network in six U.S. cities including Atlanta, Baltimor, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio by the end of the year.

In case you’re wondering, Sprint already has a variety of LTE-ready smartphones, and just as expected they’re all Android devices. However, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the LG Viper 4G and the HTV EVO 4G can only take advantage of Sprint’s 3G network, which is rather slow when compared to the competition. And lets not forget that Sprint’s Samsung Galaxy S3 with 4G LTE support is coming soon.

It’s also worth mentioning that Sprint still allows subscribers to subscribe to unlimited data plans, which puts more strain on its 3G network, so moving to 4G LTE should help the carrier offer better data services to its hardcore mobile web users. But how does the new Sprint 4G LTE network fare when pitted against the competition, namely AT&T and Verizon? PCMag had the opportunity of testing the new network using an LG Viper 4G and two applications, “the Sensorly speed test app and the Ookla Speedtest.net app.”

The publication used the same apps to test Verizon’s and AT&T’s LTE networks, but they did so in regular conditions (with “ordinary retail phones on loaded networks”) without alerting the carriers that speed tests were being conducted in certain markets. With Sprint’s network, PCMag tested the 4G LTE connectivity on phones “tuned by Sprint’s engineering team at pre-approved locations.” Therefore, the tests are not entirely conclusive, and we’ll probably have to wait for a second round of testing to take place once the network is launched to draw a more objective conclusion.

Nevertheless, Sprint’s LTE network looks quite promising, and while it’s not as fast as AT&T’s or Verizon’s LTE networks in certain markets, it certainly looks like the carrier is ready to move to 4G LTE and further upgrade the network. Here’s what PCMag found during testing:

Sprint’s LTE network is faster than its old WiMAX network. It’s a bit faster than T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21, and it’s about 25 times as fast as Sprint’s 3G network. But it doesn’t quite match AT&T’s and Verizon’s LTE speeds in cities where they have more spectrum. […]

Using the Sensorly software at four of our locations, we got average download speeds between 9 and 13Mbps, which is similar to the speeds in AT&T’s two faster 5MHz channel cities but slower than you see in its 10MHz channel cities. Sprint’s peak download speeds hit 26.5Mbps down, which is as much bandwidth as anyone really needs. That’s also similar to AT&T’s peak speed in a solid 5Mhz city like Raleigh, where we got a 27.8Mbps peak on AT&T. […]

Uploads were on the slow side, but here’s where the test method really becomes an issue. Using our Sensorly test we saw upload speeds averaging 2.19Mbps, once again comparable to AT&T’s 5MHz cities and faster than T-Mobile’s HSPA+ or Sprint’s old WiMAX 4G, but slower than Verizon. The network hit 2.97Mbps for peak uploads.

Have you already purchased a 4G LTE Android handset from Sprint or do you plan to get one?

  • Lekz

    Any word of when this will be out? I’m not sure if I should jump in given Sprints reputation.. Tho I’m in ATL and it doesn’t look bad.

  • GuestAccountUser

    Why is Sprint’s 4G launch *YEARS* behind Verizon’s????
    And how many additional years will it take for Sprint to get 200-400 markets?

    • Current gen LTE is no more ‘4G’ than WiMAX is. Sprint was first with early ‘4G’, not VZW. Sprint plans to rollout LTE to 130m population by end of this year and the entire Sprint network by end of next year.

      Sprint had to rollout WiMAX at the time because they had to use the spectrum or lose it. LTE wasn’t ready at the time.

      • Cole Raney

        LTE is faster and it’s theoretical max actually reaches 4G speeds unlike WiMAX. So Verizon did come before sprint.

        • What is 4g? it’s a marketing term is all…

        • mykebz

          No Verizon did not come first. WiMAX is a fourth generation service as is LTE and hspa+ therefore sprint was first with 4g

  • Low latency and unlimited has more value than more bandwidth than you need. Sprint tests are showing below 50ms compared to 60ms+ for ATT/VZW. A smartphone doesn’t really need more than 4Mbps, can’t think of any app that needs more than 4. Lower latency like 60ms will have a better impact on browsing/app performance at 4Mbps than 80ms at 20Mbps. Speed queens (and most tech bloggers/mags) don’t understand this.

  • briandoesnt

    I have had issues with Sprint upgrades and I’m pretty sure they said lte is one of the things they were working on!