Sprint is hard at work expanding its LTE network to match offerings from competing companies AT&T and Verizon, both of which have sizable LTE networks.
In late January the company brought its LTE network to several states across the U.S., and today it expanded coverage in three major markets, including San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C., as well as several cities in Florida, including Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa.
Sprint’s LTE network began rolling out in 2012. In early 2012, Sprint released its first three LTE smartphones, and later began offering the iPhone 5 when it was released in September.
Sprint fleshed out its network over the course of the year, and began selling the fourth generation iPad and the iPad mini in November, both of which offer LTE connectivity.
Since receiving both the iPhone 5 and the iPad, LTE has been a top priority for the company, because Sprint’s coverage lags far behind its competitors. For example, while both Verizon and AT&T have solid coverage over most of the Bay Area, Sprint’s LTE coverage is spotty at best.
According to Sprint spokesperson Kelly Schlageter, who spoke to The Verge, Sprint has avoided making an official announcement about the LTE expansion until the company covers “a density of sites to indicate that our customers should consistently have a great 4G LTE experience.”
Schlageter also mentioned that deployment has just begun in San Francisco. “Coverage area is somewhat hard to describe at this stage because sites generally aren’t contiguous. There are sites on air in and around SF, kind of like popcorn.”
Rolling out LTE to specific areas without an official announcement allows Sprint to get the connectivity to customers as quickly as possible. “Rather than deploy a site, test the equipment and then turn it off until we launch, we are leaving the sites on and customers are welcome to use the Sprint 4G LTE network wherever they find it,” says Schlageter.
Sprint’s coverage map shows LTE in a limited number of cities across the United States, but it’s likely that quite a few more customers have limited LTE access as Sprint continues to roll out its network.
During its latest earnings call on February 7, Sprint said that it expects to have LTE coverage for 200 million people by the end of 2013 or early 2014 at the latest. In comparison, AT&T offers LTE for 288 million people while Verizon covers 250 million people.