Sprint’s 4G LTE network to cover 260 markets in two years

by Phil Hornshaw

The biggest news to come out of Sprint lately might have been that the carrier will pick up Apple’s insanely popular iPhone, which has already reportedly exceeded its presale volume and will experience delays when it launches. But supporting a new handset isn’t the only trick Sprint has up its sleeve.

For Android fans, things with the No. 3 carrier in the U.S. are on their way to getting faster. Sprint’s working on its 4G LTE data network, and according to a recent announcement, it plans to have 260 markets covered by 2013. By the end of this year, Sprint intends to cover about 120 markets.

TechCrunch has the story, which states that Sprint will continue to sell its current WiMAX-capable devices throughout the next year. A report from CNET states that Sprint has 15 LTE devices waiting in the wings to be released in 2012, although the company hasn’t revealed any just yet. The first devices are expected to start rolling out in summer 2012, and Sprint VP of Product Development, Fared Adib, hinted at tablets and modems for the network, in addition to smartphones.

Sprint not too long ago was pushing WiMAX, a faster-than-3G data technology it employs in its networks. Customers who jumped on the WiMAX bandwagon may be feeling a bit jilted by finding out that Sprint is moving to 4G LTE, which will be a faster and more efficient technology supported by competitors Verizon and AT&T. But Sprint doesn’t seem to be abandoning WiMAX any time soon, so customers should be set to ride out WiMAX until the network becomes a little more solid.

It’s good for Android owners that Sprint is pushing into 4G LTE, as right now Verizon is leading the charge with its 143 covered markets, which it plans to expand to 175 by the end of the year. AT&T is working on expanding and spreading its 4G LTE network as well (part of its reasoning for its hopeful acquisition of T-Mobile would be network improvements as it moves forward with new technology), but right now much of what is touted as being “4G” really isn’t. It’s faster than 3G, sure, but it’s not the real speed increase we’ll be seeing when 4G LTE takes off.