By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Overland Park, Kan. – A quartet of LTE smartphones unveiled by Sprint will be the carrier’s first to offer advanced LTE technology called Sprint Spark, which promises 50-60Mbps peak wireless-data speeds with a potential to boost speeds to more than 2Gbps in the future.
Sprint launched Sprint Spark with limited availability in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Miami. The carrier will deploy Sprint Spark in about 100 of the largest cities over the next three years.
Sprint Spark “provides the capacity to greatly improve the performance of video and other bandwidth-intensive applications,” the company said. It will also support “a new generation of online gaming, virtual reality, advanced cloud services and other applications requiring very high bandwidth.”
The first four smartphones equipped to take advantage of Sprint Spark speeds will be the Samsung Galaxy Mega phablet, Samsung Galaxy S4 mini, LG G2, and HTC One max. All are the carrier’s first tri-band models, which will actively hand-off data sessions among the carrier’s 800MHz, 1.9GHz and 2.5GHz bands to give users the highest speed available for an application in use at a given moment, the company said. The Sprint Spark technology will be deployed only in the 2.5GHz band.
The Galaxy Mega phablet and Samsung GalaxyS 4 mini will become available Nov. 8 but won’t get a software upgrade enabling tri-band operation until “shortly after launch,” Sprint said. LG’s G2 flagship will also be available Nov. 8 for the Sprint network and will get a tri-band software update in early 2014.
The fourth phone is the HTC One max, which the company said is “coming soon.” Pricing wasn’t announced.
In the past, Sprint has said its LTE network delivered an average 6-8Mbps download speeds, and AT&T and Verizon have cited average 5-12Mbps download speeds. For its part, T-Mobile has boasted of speeds between 6-12Mbps on its LTE network.
Sprint Spark uses TDD-LTE technology and carrier aggregation in the 2.5GHz band. It uses more traditional FDD-LTE technology in the 800MHz and 1.9 GHz bands. The 800MHz band was used previously for Sprint’s 2G iDEN network, which has been shut down.
Spark will also use small cells to augment capacity, coverage and speed, with small-cell deployment expected to begin in 2014 and continue through 2015 and beyond, Sprint said.
Sprint has expanded 4G LTE coverage to 230 markets and is on track to reach 200 million people by the end of this year and 250 million people by mid-2014, but Sprint Spark LTE will be available in only about 100 of the largest cities over the next three years because the carrier is still building out its 2.5GHz LTE network.
Separately, Sprint said its HD Voice offering reaches about 85 million people today and will expand to 250 million people by mid-2014. Sprint expects 12 million HD Voice devices in the customer base by the end of 2013, growing to 20 million by the end of 2014.
In detailing the launch of the Spark-capable phones, Sprint priced the LG G2 at $199 with two-year service agreement or $22.92 per month for 24 months with the Sprint One Up trade-up plan. The Samsung Galaxy Mega will be available for $199 or $19.59 per month. The Galaxy S 4 mini will be available for $99.99, after a $50 mail-in reward-card rebate in Sprint’s direct channels, or $16.67 per month. The HTC One max will be available for $249.99 or $25/month.
The Galaxy Mega phablet features 6.3-inch 1080p display, Android 4.2.2, 1.6GHz dual-core processor, and ability to display two apps side by side.
The Galaxy S4 mini also features Android 4.2.2. It has a 1.7GHz dual-core processor and 4.3-inch qHD display.
The LG G2 features quad-core 2.26GHz processor and 5.2-inch 1080p display. And the HTC One max ,
The HTC One Max will be HTC’s first phablet and features full-HD 5.9-inch touchscreen and quad-core 1.7GHz CPU.
Sprint’s One Up program gives consumers the ability to upgrade a smartphone every 12 months for a monthly fee for users who sign up for the carrier’s Unlimited My Way and My All-in plans. Under the program, consumers purchase an eligible smartphone or tablet with a down payment and pay it off in 24 monthly installment payments for the device.
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