by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Sunday, June 10, 2012 - 11:59 PM MDT
In our continuing Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series, S4GRU presents to you the latest regarding Houston, Texas. Sprint announced to the world early in Network Vision that the Houston market would be one of their first LTE launches. Sprint committed to a Mid 2012 LTE launch in Houston at the beginning of the year.
Sprint's Network Vision OEM Ericsson has been steadily deploying around the Greater Houston/Galveston area. As of this week, there are approximately 60 Network Vision sites broadcasting a LTE signal. These sites are all around the market.
Network Vision Sites in Houston. Sixty sites are complete in the market. All of these broadcasting Sprint LTE, but being blocked from accessibility by Sprint.
60 Live LTE Sites, but still being blocked by Sprint
Despite the good news of these live LTE sites, Sprint is still actively blocking LTE connections. They originally planned to allow sites converted to Network Vision standards to go live immediately upon completion by the OEM Contractor. This is still the case with 3G EVDO and even CDMA 800 sites when they are completed. In Sprint's original Network Vision plans, they were also planning to allow 4G LTE signals to be handled the same way. Turn them on and allow them to be discovered prior to the formal market launch at 50% site completion.
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 markets already announced like Houston. If they waited for 50% now, it would delay launch until September. In the case of Houston, should Sprint launch by Mid July, they would only be complete with approximately 30% to 35% of all NV sites. This doesn't sound like a lot, but it would provide pretty good coverage. A little known item is not even Verizon launches on all sites in a market initially. Usually less than 50%, then filling in with more and more sites every few months.
Anticipated Sites Complete at Market Launch. According to the Network Vision schedules
that S4GRU has reviewed, if Sprint launched the market in Mid July, these are the
anticipated sites that would have LTE complete at that time. This would provide fairly good
LTE coverage over many parts of the market.
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 well performing 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 Houston market. We believe they are targeting a launch date in July based on internal Sprint documents. However, we hope that they will actually remove LTE blocking before the launch, since there are quite a few active LTE sites that can be used now in this market.
Sprint's Network Vision schedule for this market currently has 58 Network Vision sites complete. Ericsson is plotting continual progress from here with production ramping up to a rate of almost 70 sites per month. S4GRU has poured over the schedule in this market and sees a February 2013 completion date. In our estimation of the schedule, it appears that Ericsson is slightly behind in the market. But with the rate the schedule is supposed to pick up in June, Ericsson has ample opportunity to finish on time.
For the time being, your brains are being bombarded with Sprint LTE all over the Houston market. But you just cannot connect. We hope Sprint soon lifts the blockade and allows all of us who have purchased LTE devices to be able to use the network.
Photo of Houston skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.