For Sprint customers, the coming and going of WiMAX couldn’t happen soon enough. The failed wireless 4G standard that Sprint banked on never took hold for a number of reasons and was eventually replaced with LTE as the defacto 4G standard across the world. During this changeover period Sprint announced a new strategy for LTE that was designed to rocket the speeds of its data through the stratosphere with theoretical throughput rates of 1Gbps. That’s a great deal more bandwidth than even the best offered by its competitors at around 100Mbps or so. But to build a network with the throughput and integrity of Spark takes a lot of time and a great deal of money. Last year at its Spark announcement Sprint set a goal of reaching over 100 million POPs (or people) by year’s end 2014, and it looks like that goal has officially been reached today.
Sprint’s Tri-Band LTE network has been dubbed Spark and covers the already existing 1900MHz LTE spectrum that Sprint has been building out, as well as the new 2.5GHz spectrum and the existing 800MHz spectrum taken over from the old Nextel purchase. With these three bands Sprint phones that support spark essentially harness the power of any of these available bands to get the data to your phone as fast as possible. Sprint’s 1900MHz LTE network now covers over 260 million people in the US as 16 new markets went live today including Charlotte, North Carolina and Indianapolis, Indiana. Sprint covers over 100 million people in 62 markets with its 2.5GHz spectrum and over 565,000 square miles and 38 million people spanning 27 carriers with its 800MHz spectrum in rural areas. It is this 800MHz rollout that’s going to be pushed in 2015, along with the 2.5GHz rollout, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2015.
This is all great news for Sprint customers who have faced increasingly worse network service in parts of the country and are now finding relief in Sprint’s new network. Besides spectrum advances and general buildout of what Sprint’s been allotted by the FCC, fast backhaul is more important to the expanding network now than ever. Small cells will play a key role in the 2.5GHz expansion in the coming year rather than leveraging things like dark fiber, although that’s not entirely out of the picture either. Sprint’s executives now work out of the Sprint headquarters in Kansas City under the direction of the new CEO of Sprint, Marcelo Claure.