San Francisco - Sprint named four of the first markets in which it will turn on 4G LTE service as part of its conversion from 4G Mobile WiMAX technology.
Speaking here at a media and telecommunications conference, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio will be among the first markets to benefit from 4G LTE as well as from improved 3G coverage in the first half of 2012 as part of the company's Network Vision strategy.
Under the strategy, Sprint is making the switch to LTE over its own spectrum to deliver faster data speeds than WiMAX, benefit from LTE's greater global economies of scale, and expand 4G coverage throughout its 3G footprint. The company currently resells Mobile WiMAX service from Clearwire's WiMAX network, whose expansion has been hampered by the company's cash constraints and profit losses.
Also under the Network Vision plan, Sprint is phasing out its 2G iDEN network and consolidating its separate iDEN and 3G CDMA networks to reduce the number of cell sites to about 40,000 from more than 60,000. The cell sites will use multimode base-station technology that enables each base station to support iDEN, 3G CDMA and 4G LTE technology while also being able to host LightSquared's 1.6GHz LTE technology should the FCC give final approval to LightSquared's plans to offer terrestrial service in the 1.6GHz satellite band. The new network could also host other technologies and bands as well.
The changes will also improve 3G voice and data quality and provide stronger in-building signal penetration, the carrier has said.
The first completed deployment of a multimode base station was in Branchburg, N.J., in December 2011, though without 4G LTE.
The company has said it would begin to turn on LTE service in mid-2012 and, by the end of 2012, offer 4G service through its LTE network and Clearwire's WiMAX network in markets serving a combined 176 million people. By the end of 2013, Sprint has said it would offer 4G LTE service to 250 million people while continuing to provide Clearwire's WiMAX service to customers in markets serving 120 million people.