Sprint’s LTE Network To Be Slower But More Consistent Than Verizon, AT&T

    May 9, 2012
    Shaylin Clark
    Comments are off for this post.

As you may have noticed, LTE is all the rage these days. Everyone, it seems, is in the process of building a 4G LTE cell phone network. Verizon already has a fairly sizable one up and running, and AT&T isn’t all that far behind. Sprint is set to roll out their network later this year, and even T-Mobile is getting in on the game. LTE is the next evolution in wireless data technology. And I mean that literally: the LTE stands for Long Term Evolution.

At the same time that the carriers are rolling out these zippy new networks, the handset manufacturers are cranking out 4G-capable devices (and you can bet the iPhone will be one of those when it launches later this year). And of course, every phone manufacturer is going to tell you that their phone is better, and some certainly are, but the networks are pretty much all the same, right? After all, 4G LTE is 4G LTE, isn’t it?

Well, it turns out that that’s not exactly the case. Not all 4G networks are created equal, as Sprint executives revealed today at the CTIA conference in New Orleans. Sprint’s new 4G LTE network, it seems, will not be as fast as the competition. Whereas Verizon and AT&T use 10 MHz channels for their network, Sprint will only be using 5 MHz channels at the beginning. That means that Sprint’s network will be a bit slower than the competition.

Now, before you give up on Sprint altogether, the slower speed doesn’t mean that their network will necessarily be worse. For one thing, as PC Mag is reporting, the network is being designed with consistency in mind. Verizon’s 4G speeds can be a bit varied, and the network has distinct difficulties when a user passes from a 4G coverage area to a 3G area. Sprint is working to make sure that their network suffers from neither of those problems.

Sprint is also planning to make several other network improvements, according to today’s report. For one thing, they will be moving voice calls to the spectrum that will be freed up when they shut down the Nextel network. That should take some of the load off the company’s current 3G network, which should improve its data performance.

Of course, it also bears remembering that of the three largest carriers, only Sprint still offers an unlimited data plan. Verizon and AT&T have long since abandoned unlimited data in favor of a tiered system. Those data plans – and their caps – remain unchanged on the much faster 4G networks. Sprint, on the other hand, insists that they will keep their unlimited data plans even after the switch to 4G LTE.

So, for all that Sprint’s 4G network will be a bit slower than the competition, you have the option of unlimited data as a tradeoff. Considering how easy it is to burn through those data caps on any 4G network, unlimited data is nothing to sneeze at.

What do you think? Is it a problem that Sprint’s 4G LTE network will be a little slower than the competition? Does the promise of unlimited data change how much you care about network speed? Let us know in the comments.

  • Brett

    After hearing that the speeds are going to be 50% the speed of Verizon’s LTE, and they are not completely separating from the Clear 4G pile of garbage, but rather integrating it all 3 ways, I can honestly say that I am worried. I am worried about 3G speeds continuing to be substandard(even for 3G), worried about the fact that the Sprint network here in Dallas will continue to be over saturated and throttled most of the day((not enough towers to be consistent)and, regardless of what they claim, Sprint and Clear do throttle the living s**t out of the network here), and worried that if I do go from my iPhone 4s to a full LTE iPhone or EVO that Sprint will give in sooner, rather than later, to capping data to cover the costs of the iPhone buy-in and the upgrading of the network. In my opinion, I don’t think that Sprint should be charging as high a premium as the other companies for the LTE phones and hotspots if they are going to be running at half the speed of the big dogs. I have had the EVO 4G phone through Sprint, and I can say that it was OK, but I am like most other Americans out there. I work from 8 to 5, and when I get off work, I want the phone that I paid the premium price to get, to actually be able to perform at the speeds it was meant to, on a network that can truly perform CONSISTENTLY. This means keeping the size of the customer base proportionate to the number and coverage ability of the network’s towers. The WiMax 4G started out great and ended up horrible because they didn’t keep up with the growth. If it goes that route with the LTE network, I think Sprint will be done in their push to be at the top. Anyway, after hearing the details for the upcoming LTE network(speeds, device costs, etc.), I am still worried. People associate brands, devices, and their performence with numbers and facts. Sprint charging $199 for a phone that will be on a network at 1/2 the speed doesn’t sound like a much of a sales pitch to me. I guess the biggest thing in my mind is Sprint’s association with Clear has not been amputated, cremated, and launched into the depths of space….Yes, my experience with Clear was honestly the worst contractual experience I have EVER been through. I hope Sprint is doing the right thing.

  • Elvis

    Channel size and speed are NOT directly related. Brett, you comment of “50% slower” is not acurate. That’s like saying your speed would be 50% slower on a freeway with half the lanes. Regardless of the channel size Sprint implements, the speeds will be fast. How fast? Fast enough to stream video without issues. Would you even notice “slower speeds” if your applications were working? And if I have to wait 2 seconds longer for my movies to download in exchange for a more consistant 4G network and unlimited data plan, that seems like a small price to pay. Sign me up.

  • Brett

    I didn’t mean that the speeds are the exact issue. My concern is for Sprint as far as a sales standpoint. When someone is in the market for a cellphone, they are going to do a side by side comparison-like a chart. What they are looking for is numbers. The average person doesn’t understand bandwidth, channel size, or speed. I want to see Sprint go past being #3, and I guess what I’m saying is conservative hasn’t served them well in the past and I don’t think it’s going to serve them well in the future. I am an inverstor in Sprint, and I think they need to be more aggressive and seriously NEED to become disassociated with Clear. Everyone I have ever met that has tried Clear have the same taste in their mouth as I do, and they all know that Clear and Sprint go hand in hand.

  • Humberto

    The 4gLTE for Sprint will be much different than with wimax. Wimax was never intended to go nationwide. The new 4gLTE is supposed to have WAY more coverage than Wimax and it will also be faster. Sprint has cut almost all relations with Clearwire and almost bankrupt the company, wimax will only be supported until 2014-2015 after which it will be terminated along with Clearwire im guessing. I currently receive wimax and the speeds are decent, I am willing to wait for LTE to roll around since it wil be better in every for. It will be slower than verizon but will probably have speeds above 10Mbps which is more than enough to stream HD videos.

    • Humberto

      and I will still have my unlimited data plan that I will be able to use to its even greater potential

  • louis

    Brett sprint own most of clear so they are not going anywhere.

  • Ken

    I have been a AT&T customer for 10 years using an unlimited data plan. It is an old plan (MediaWorks) that AT&T can/will not upgrade. Data speeds are not a grave concern to me (after all I’m using a cell phone not a T-1 line). The unlimited data is of great value to me so I am seriously looking into Sprint and will probably choose them in the next week or so. If the quality of the AT&T 3G network=quality of Sprint network then I will keep them as my new provider. 4G LTE service may insure that I stay with them for the next 10 years (if the grandfather my plan in the future)