by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 8:44 AM MDT
In the first article of our new Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series, S4GRU brings you to Atlanta, Georgia. Sprint announced to the world early in Network Vision that the Atlanta/Athens market would be one of their first LTE launches. Slated for the end of June 2012.
Since the announcement last December, Sprint's Network Vision OEM Ericsson has been busy with deployment. As of this week, the Atlanta/Athens market has over 150 Network Vision sites broadcasting a LTE signal. These sites are all around the market.
Network Vision Sites in Atlanta/Athens Market. Over 150 sites are complete in the market. All of these broadcasting Sprint LTE, but being blocked from accessibility by Sprint.
150 Live LTE Sites, but still being blocked by Sprint
Despite the good news of so many live LTE sites, Sprint is currently blocking LTE connections, as most of our S4GRU readers already know. Sprint has put the decision of when to allow their LTE signals that are currently being broadcast over Northern Georgia in the hands of their "Business Teams." Now with the EVO LTE apparently selling like gangbusters and with the announcement of the new LTE capable Samsung Galaxy S-III, hopefully Sprint will allow their LTE network to open to connections soon.
Sprint did start releasing 4G LTE sites initially after they started coming online in April, but soon changed their mind about allowing customers to connect to them. Several S4GRU members were able to use 4G LTE and were posting impressive 30Mbps download speeds. However, since then Sprint decided to shut down access to LTE and started actively blocking. Now it is believed that Sprint may hold all LTE connections in a market until formal launch. We hope they allow it sooner.
It seems to be a terrible waste to have a LTE signal being broadcast all around you that your device is not allowed to connect to. There have been many speculations why Sprint may be blocking access, including possible LTE connectivity issues with the new EVO LTE, but none have been confirmed at this time. Sprint can end this conjecture by just opening up their LTE network to existing LTE device holders.
Market Launch and Remaining Schedule
In recently seen correspondence, Sprint has decided to move up launches sooner than 50% completion. This is likely to maintain a Mid 2012 launch. In the case of Atlanta, should Sprint launch prior to the end of June, they would only be complete with approximately 35% to 40% of all NV sites. And even though this sounds like very few, keep in mind that Sprint's Atlanta/Athens market is all of Northern Georgia. With over 1,000 sites total.
Anticipated Sites Complete at Market Launch. According to the Network Vision schedules that S4GRU has reviewed, if Sprint launched the market on June 30th, these are the anticipated sites that would have LTE complete at that time. This would provide pretty good LTE coverage over the market.
Verizon did not get 100% of their total market coverage complete before launching in Atlanta. Maybe a hundred sites at first, then adding more incrementally. Sprint will do something similar. At market launch, some areas will be well covered with LTE, and others may be kind of spotty. However, more sites will come online every week until the whole market is complete. And even with one or two bars of LTE signal on your device, you will still get speeds that are double to triple that of 3G EVDO in most instances.
And speaking of 3G EVDO, Sprint is not reporting any of these live Network Vision sites are currently broadcasting EVDO, only LTE. According to the NV schedule, these should have started coming online in May. However, none have shown up as NV 3G active to date. We know the new backhaul is in place at these sites since they are broadcasting LTE. That most likely means that the Switch Center is not ready for these sites. A huge backlog of 3G sites will probably come online in this market suddenly when the network is ready.
The bottom line...
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the Atlanta market. We believe they are still targeting a launch date before the end of the month based on internal Sprint documents. However, we hope that they will actually remove LTE blocking before the launch, since there are so many active LTE sites that can be used now in this market.
Sprint's Network Vision schedule for this market currently has 152 Network Vision sites complete. Ericsson is plotting continual progress from here until the last ones complete around Mid December 2012. Production is ramping up to turn over approximately 150 sites per month through the end. Although it was difficult for S4GRU to quantify looking at this complex schedule, it appears that Ericsson is a little behind schedule in the market, but not more than can be made up before scheduled market completion in December.
Pretty much the last piece of the puzzle unknown at this time is when is Sprint going to light this thing up for customers? C'mon Sprint, we are waiting!
Photo of Atlanta skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.