Sprint has specified 2014 as the year when it will deploy its LTE service on the new 800 MHz spectrum. This is to replace the old Nextel iDen systems network on which Sprint has relied so far. Sprint network operations president Steve Elfman said that the 800 MHz spectrum that the iDen network uses has been named an official LTE band and is awaiting federal approval from the FCC to use the frequency for its 4G network. The process should not have any unforeseen problems.
The iDen network was useful for the walkie-talkie style mobile services that pushed Nextel to popularity, but with the increasing predominance of data service for mobile devices, Sprint has to turn to the latest data networks to maintain its market competitiveness. Sprint has already begun shutting down iDen base stations and moving iDen customers off the spectrum to the CMDA data network. By 2014, Sprint will fill the dormant 800 MHz airwaves of the defunct iDen network with LTE.
Sprint is confident that it can deliver 4G LTE services on par with its larger competitors, Verizon and AT&T, whose networks use the 700 MHz spectrum. Sprint has half the customer base of Verizon and AT&T, which will mitigate any problems with network saturation in the early stages of its LTE deployment.
Sprint has also been actively seeking companies from which to purchase additional spectrum. Its agreement with Clearwire would allow Sprint to offload many of its customers to Clearwire’s new LTE network. Sprint has not fully revealed the extent of its LTE launch markets, but it has identified the first cities to receive the 4G upgrade. Sprint hopes that the amalgamation of different resources will help it to become a viable competitor for the big two networks in the business- AT&T and Verizon.