by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 6:33 PM MDT
Next stop, Baltimore! S4GRU continues our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series with "The Greatest City in America." I didn't come up with that Motto, but I did read it on Wikipedia. So it must be true! Back in February, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse broke the news that Baltimore will be launched with Network Vision and LTE in Mid-2012.
The Baltimore market essentially covers all of Maryland, except for the portions in the Sprint Washington DC market and Western Maryland which is mostly served by Sprint Affiliate Shentel. Sprint's Network Vision OEM Alcatel/Lucent has been actively deploying in the Baltimore market since March and is making good progress. As of this week, there are approximately 55 Network Vision sites that have completed upgrades. These sites are pretty spread out around the market, from Inner City Baltimore, out to the suburbs, one in Annapolis and even three out on the Eastern Shore!
Network Vision Sites in the Baltimore market. More than fifty Network Vision sites are complete in the market.
Market Launch and Remaining Schedule
It was Sprint's original plan to launch markets when they reached 50% of sites converted to Network Vision. However, 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 that have already been announced...like Baltimore. If they waited for 50% now, it would delay launch until September. In the case of the Baltimore market, should Sprint launch by Mid July, they would only be complete with approximately 25% to 30% 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.
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.
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 likely have LTE complete at that time. This would provide fairly good LTE coverage over many parts of the market.
Sprint is not reporting any of these live Network Vision sites in Baltimore are currently broadcasting 4G LTE, only 3G EVDO. According to the NV schedule, these should have started coming online in May with LTE. However, none have shown up as LTE active to date. This most likely means that either the backhaul is not quite ready to service 4G LTE, or the 4G cores that these sites are tied to are not quite ready for LTE traffic. A huge backlog of LTE 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 Baltimore market. We believe they are targeting a launch month of July based on reports internally within Sprint. Currently Sprint continues to block LTE connections by its customers with LTE devices. Hopefully by the time LTE is ready at these Baltimore sites, Sprint will have stopped their LTE blocking schemes.
Sprint's schedule for this market currently has 55 Network Vision sites complete. Alcatel/Lucent is continuing to progress and should increase the production rate up to 60 sites per month from here forward. S4GRU has poured over the schedule in this market and sees a December 2012 completion date. In our estimation of the schedule, it appears that Alcatel/Lucent is only slightly behind in the market and looks good to completing on time.
Photo of Baltimore Inner Harbor provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.