AT&T and Verizon are expected to be selling the 4G LTE device from the start, but Sprint, still relatively new in its partnership with Apple, has a fairly small LTE network. The company plans to install LTE in only 6 cities by mid year - which is likely the reason Apple opted not to offer the iPad on Sprint's network. AT&T and Verizon currently sell the new iPad LTE.
Still, comments from Joe Euteneuer, CFO at Sprint, explain that the company with carry the iPhone 5 at launch, regardless of LTE network coverage.
Dow Jones reports:
Nonetheless, Euteneuer said Tuesday at an investor conference that Sprint’s Apple contract is similar to those of rivals AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, and that the carrier isn’t being held to any 4G LTE coverage requirements. In comparison, the other two carriers have rolled out 4G LTE to large swaths of the country.
“If you make the assumption that they launch a device at a similar time that they did last year, you’re basically done with the major markets” on Sprint’s 4G LTE buildout, Euteneuer said, noting the carrier plans to initially cover around 100 million Americans. “So I don’t think we are really disadvantaged at all.”
Sprint took a risk in its partnership with Apple, committed to about $20 billion worth of iPhones during the life of the contract, and won't see any profits until at least 2015. And even though the release of the iPhone 4S set Sprint's single-day launch record, the company never saw a huge bump in new customers due to the device. And, if Sprint can't bolster its LTE grid for the launch of the iPhone 5, the company will likely see major losses.
Sprint forecasts that its LTE network will support 250 million users in the U.S. by 2013. This would put it up there with AT&T and Verizon. Sprint appears to bank on the release date of the new iPhone.