Sprint Nextel is turning on LTE service today in several new mid-size markets, including suburban Chicago. The nation’s third-largest carrier says its LTE network now serves 32 U.S. cities and is on track to cover 115 cities within the coming months. Analysts do not expect to the carrier’s plans to be acquired by Softbank to delay its LTE rollout.
In addition to suburban Chicago, Sprint Nextel’s LTE network now serves Wichita Falls, Texas; Hutchinson and McPherson, Kan.; and New Bedford/Fall River, Mass.
Sprint Nextel has a long way to go to catch up with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, whose LTE networks are much further along, but its value proposition may encourage some customers to turn their backs on the big guys. While AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless are asking customers to buy set amounts of data through shared data plans, Sprint Nextel still offers all-you-can-eat, and has launched an aggressive ad campaign called Say No to Sharing.
Meanwhile, MetroPCS appears determined to give Sprint Nextel a run for its money in the world of unlimited LTE. Today the no-contract carrier is launching the Samsung Galaxy S III in retail stores across the country. No contract means no discount on the purchase price; the flagship Samsung LTE phone retails for $499. Unlimited LTE service is $55 per month, meaning that it would take many customers less than a year to make up for the higher purchase price through savings on their monthly payments. MetroPCS currently has 14 LTE markets, concentrated primarily on the East and West Coasts.
MetroPCS rival Leap Wireless also bolstered its LTE presence late last week with the launch of service in Las Vegas, doubling the carrier’s LTE market count to two. Leap launched service late last year in Tucson, Ariz., and said it plans to cover approximately 20 million potential customers by the end of the year.