Once upon a time (well, a couple of years ago), an epic battle between the two competing 4G standards was brewing. On one camp, the biggest carriers in the US, AT&T and Verizon, backed LTE, while in the other camp, Sprint partnered with ClearWire to launch their own WiMax network.

In the beginning, thanks to a swift deployment, Sprint enjoyed a good head start over the competition. Back in 2010, Sprint launched its first WiMax phone, the HTC Evo 4G, which went on to gain huge popularity thanks to good network speeds and Sprint’s unlimited data plans. AT&T and Verizon were a little late to the game with rolling out their 4G LTE networks, but they quickly caught up to Sprint.

And then, all of the sudden, the standards war ended. Sprint realized that it had backed the wrong horse. Maybe tests results like these had something to do with it:

So it was back to the drawing board for Sprint. The company announced last year that it would its network to 4G LTE, and has since, installed and field-tested LTE equipment in areas such as Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City, and San Antonio.

In these markets, Sprint’s LTE network will be up and running as early as April this year. Sprint is also in the process of announcing and releasing a slate of LTE devices, including the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X (renamed the EVO One), and  the LG Viper 4G LTE, all of which bound to come over the next few months.

Sprint says good-bye to WiMax, future network coverage revealed

In an act that can be considered the final nail in the coffin for WiMax, Sprint today announced that it would not be releasing new WiMax devices anymore, and will instead focus on promoting its 4G LTE devices. Although they did say that they would continue selling their available WiMax phones, I really don’t see the point of anyone actually going out and buying one.

As part of its Network Vision program, Sprint plans to have its LTE network fully functional by early 2014, and plans to release up to 15 LTE smartphones and tablets by the end of this year. As you can see in the above leaked image, Sprint will cover most of the Eastern side of the US with its own LTE network and will have roaming agreement in place for much of the rest of the nation.

What does this mean for Sprint’s customer base? Sprint mentioned that it will continue to support the WiMax network through 2015, so there’s no need to get rid of the WiMax devices just yet. But if you’re hoping to pick up an LTE device soon, you will only get to enjoy the blazing fast 4G speeds if you’re in one of the coverage areas mentioned above.

Sprint is currently the third largest network carrier in the US, behind AT&T and Verizon, but it hopes to make up some lost ground with its LTE network and still attractive unlimited data plans. What are your thoughts? Was WiMax a crucial mistake? Is Sprint’s move to LTE a little too late?

Ankit Banerjee
My primary profession lies in the Network Design Engineering field. I have always been passionate about the latest trends in mobile communication advances around the world.
  • dla0052

    I think it is a little too late. I have had the EVO since it launched in 2010 and been waiting for WiMax to get to El Paso, TX ever since then. Verizon and AT&T have 4G up and running here and Sprint is barely releasing a new 4G service…again! At that, it will only be in 3 cities in TX, not anywhere close to where I am at! I am 3 months away from opting out of my plan and I can not wait! Sprint has been a little too late for the last time for me, their service constantly drops calls, the majority of cities that get cell tower upgrades are either on the east coast or have a pop. of over 2 million people. I mean El Paso is in the top 20 largest cities in the US and we get no love. They basically held themselves back for 2 years and now wanna get in the LTE race? I think we are seeing the beginning of the end for Sprint!

    • Ankit

      While I agree with most of your statement, the “beginning of the end of Sprint” might be a little too harsh. We’ve already seen how the competition can over-run other companies, e.g.with T-mobile…..but Sprint still does have unlimited data plans and will most likely continue to do so, or rather SHOULD continue to do so, because that is what Sprint is still stand-out for. If it doesn’t, you are probably right and Sprint is done for. But for now, I still think providing unlimited data is a huge advantage.

    • I feel you on the WiMax not being near. I live in Phx which is the 6th largest city in the US and we have 6 spots that show up on Clearwire’s site as 4G. Sprint doesn’t even show these on their site… 6th largest city with no “official” WiMax coverage. Talk about frustrated…

    • Pj3chargers

      I live in el paso also! It’s some bull that we don’t have 4g, or not even mentioned getting 4g lte. It was postponed twice! I plan on getting a next generation iPhone hopefully coming out in summer with 4g lye capabilities, but sprint won’t even have 4g lte in el paso. So what’s the darn point!!!? WE WANT 4g SPRINT. EL PASO TX!!!!

      • Jo Se

        El Paso getting 4G in the year 2000 and never! They are fucking pathetic! Switch to Verizon!

      • jnemesh

        You should consider yourself lucky! Las Cruces just BARELY got 3G this year!

    • I’ve never even heard of El Paso

      • If you haven’t heard of El Paso, something tells me you couldn’t find Iraq on a map either. Not to mention there is a famous song named after the city.

  • Too bad. Spring stuck me with a 4g device that they’re going to stop supporting, and charged me $10 a month extra for 4g coverage that doesn’t come within 400 miles of where I live, and now it never will. 2 more months and I’m out, and I won’t be coming back to Sprint.

    • All smartphones are $10 extra, including the 3G only phones. Another way to look at it is that those who want a featurephone should’n’t have to pay $10 for not using much data.

    • BraveNewWorld

      But you have 3G service right?? And you pay less than the other carriers correct? Then what is there to complain about? By the time LTE rolls out nationwide, you’ll be eligible to upgrade your phone and jump into an LTE device.

      • Eanfoso

        Not cheaper than t-mobile, no one can beat t-mobile’s prices, it’s proved

        • kensconsulting2002@yahoo.com

          True they are cheaper, but they don’t have REAL 4G HSPA+ is about the same speed as Verizon’s and AT@T 3G. I don’t understand how T-Mobile hasn’t been sued yet.

          • Logan Pelter

            First off T Mobiles HSPA+ is way faster than Sprint 3G, I should know I have both. Second neither WiMax HSPA+ or LTE are true 4G. The definition of 4G was redefined when it’s pre set minimums could not be met. Carriers wanted some way to advertise faster network speds over the many generations of 3G like UMTS and 1xRTT and later EVDO and HSUPA. And although HSPA+ closely resembles HSDPA, it is still an advancement over the last generation with the addition of the HSUPA standard. And LTE itself means Long Term Evolution, as in a work in progress, NOT real 4G.

    • The 10 dollars is not for 4g. Any smartphone you get on Sprint has to pay the 10 dollar fee wheter it is wimax or not.

      • Sparkytrainor

        it wasnt like that when I started my contract. In fact, it specifically stated premium data charge. Still not complaining too much as I havent had any real problems with sprint.

        • bumpandrun

          An Verizon and AT&T have changed their contracts a lot more than Sprint has since you started.

    • Eanfoso

      Lol true, sprint is way much costlier than t-mobile, switch to t-mobile man, cheaper, more reliable, better coverage, I really don’t see why people haven’t made the change yet

  • I typically get 4-8Mbps on WiMAX (Epic Touch) indoors and sometimes get 10-12Mbps. Those WiMAX numbers seem pretty low. Either way, looking forward to better building penetration with LTE since it’s at 1900Mhz.

  • cvgordo

    for us evo owners the good news is that we can test the waters elsewhere and by the time our next contract is up sprint might have lte up and running. lets just hope unlimited data is still around because if it isn’t then i doubt sprint will be either.

  • Justcause

    Sprint will be bankrupt in a year. Watch LOLjustcase@gmail.com

  • Pj3chargers

    El Paso wants 4g faasstt. I plan on leaving very soon. Not even 3g is fast. Its pathetic. Yet, I will deeply miss unlimited. It’s the oh thing holding me back.

  • Rohanrocks88

    I live in chicago… I used to work for clear back in 2010 when they launched wimax out here.. The reason why wimax failed ia that it takes longer to build and is more costly… Clearwire failed because they oversold and marketed thier product when they came out to the point of using up all thier funds and too many excited people signed up.. Pretty much they hit thier sales goal in half the time expected and only had half the network up therefore resulting in low speeds and many many angry people canceling…. its smart for sprint to switch to lte…finally…. Better late then never

  • Alfred Weeks

    I agree about those numbers above. I don’t have a Evo 4G but I have had a Clear Hotspot device for over a year and I get very good data speeds on it (when I get a good signal) but I also have the HTC Thunderbolt too (where I also get good LTE speeds). Its a poor comparison since Clearwire’s WiMax uses 2.5 GHz where Verizon’s is at 700 MHz, thus the lower frequency has better indoor coverage. If they compared it outdoors, the speeds would be comparable. I also disagree with Sprint’s (and Clearwire’s) choice of WiMax, it was a good choice and if they embraced WiMax 2, it would be even faster then the current flavor of LTE. I don’t understand why they are dumping it, if they upgraded to WiMax 2 (and extended coverage like they originally planned, even use WiMax 2 on 1900 MHz/800 MHz), it would be just as good as LTE. Why choose LTE, its not like you can take an LTE device from Verizon or AT&T and transfer it to Sprint. I think they made a stupid move adopting LTE over upgrading/expanding WiMax.

  • Tjmacs81

    its never too late to make up for lost money lol

  • JackRage

    Sprint towers have been “in testing” in Houston since Jan 2012. Sprint promised LTE would go live in Houston (and a few other markets) by time the Galaxy Nexus went on sale (a month and a half ago). Sprint lies. Sprint then promised by June 1st LTE would be on in Houston. It’s June 4th, nothing yet… Latest “word” (most of their support and sales reps don’t even know what LTE is well, so take this for whatever it’s worth) is that by July 1st it will be up… Did I mention I hate Sprint. This map means nothing. It’s a pipe dream in some executives head about what this 3rd rate cell carrier can deliver to save them from the inevitable doom of going out of business. On the day that happens I will be a happy customers, because badness is going to happen in this world but Karma is lady justice with the scales in her hand.

  • Ovatia

    Advice to Sprint on LTE roll out: Ensure that the Silicon Valley (Ca) is one of the first areas to go live with LTE. As the high tech capital of the US, it is a good marketing move that will hopefully help Sprint gain back crucial lost ground as word spreads and other technologies / apps will be developed to support / work with the new network by all the tech geeks out there. I will be honest, I happen to live there also, but the statement is still true enough :-)

  • SP

    Everyone neglects the fact that Sprint had no choice but to launch wimax over LTE. They were given a timeframe by the gov’t to use spectrum they received from the Nextel merger for 4G. Wimax was ready to go, LTE wasn’t. Flawed article. Do your research

  • melbell

    Even when sprint gets 4g it will not be as great. At&T and verizon use a 10-channel transmitter for their LTE network where sprint is only going to use a 5-channel. Their 4g will be a little faster then T-Mobile’s 3g. Which if you ask me is pretty sad.

  • Vital

    This is ridiculous, I have had a 4g phone from Sprint in El Paso, Texas for 2 years (HTC EVO, and now Samsung Galaxy S III). I have not been able to us ANY of my phones 4g capabilities in my city! When i got my Evo in late October of 2010, We were lied to with them saying that we would indeed get 4g in the area by December. December comes then LIED to AGAIN, being told February. Then in February- June. After June we would get a response of “Soon”, which really pissed me off. Here i have an HTC Evo 4g, using the slow 3g. My friends had 3g, then upgraded to 4g, leaving my phone in the dust, horrible! Now i have the most advanced phone on the market as to date, with 4G LTE capibilities and now i cant even use that!!! I was told by June we should have it, that is so far from now, id rater move to Verizon and pay an arm and a leg. Now Sprint planes to have the LTE up by 2014? I bet that El Paso, Texas would be the last one to get it, or at least it seems. Why should i wait two years for this service, which will probably be replaced by a more faster new wireless network. Please understand why I am so mad about this, please!