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.
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?