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.