by Robert Herron
Sprint 4G Rollout Updates
Friday, June 15, 2012 - 12:40 PM MDT
S4GRU has now completed schedule updates for all the official Sprint announced markets, but we will keep trekking along with schedule updates on the unofficial markets. The next market in our Network Vision/LTE deployment schedule update series is...Austin, Texas. This market has not been announced by Sprint, but it is on the way for an August launch, and work is already under way in this market.
Sprint's Network Vision OEM Ericsson initially deployed to the Austin market quite early, starting work back in December 2011. Ericsson established their 4G LTE FIT (field testing) areas around Waco. There are already 20 sites in the Greater Waco area with live LTE. And work is just about to begin in other parts of the market, including in the Austin Metro area.
Network Vision Sites in the Austin market. Twenty sites are complete in the market around Waco. All of these broadcasting Sprint LTE, and many of them are not even being blocked at this time.
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 in many instances. This is likely to maintain a Mid 2012 launch in markets that have already been announced. However, in an unannounced market like Austin, we don't know if they will resume pushing back market launches to 50%, or if they will now settle on a 30% - 40% completion to be the new normal for market launches.
If Sprint waits for 50% completion to launch the Austin market, it would make the launch month in September (should Ericsson stay on schedule). That being said, if Sprint should launch around August 1st (as we suspect), then the market would be well under 50% complete. This doesn't sound like enough, 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 August, 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. Waco coverage would not change. Also, the College Station/Bryan areas are not scheduled to start until October.
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 reporting that most of the Network Vision sites around Waco have both 3G EVDO and 4G LTE complete. It is not known at this time if the sites due around Austin soon will have both 4G and 3G complete at the same time. Most of the other Ericsson markets are only reporting 4G LTE live at NV sites at the moment.
The bottom line...
We currently do not have a date that Sprint will formally "launch" the Austin market. We believe they are targeting a launch month of August based on reports internally within Sprint. LTE deployment is just about to really take off in the market here in Mid June and into July. Hopefully as these LTE sites complete, Sprint will allow them to be usable by Sprint LTE device holders in the area.
Sprint's Network Vision schedule for this market currently has 20 Network Vision sites complete. Ericsson is plotting continual progress from here with production increasing up to a rate of almost 70 sites per month. S4GRU has poured over the schedule in this market and sees a November 2012 completion date. In our estimation of the schedule, Ericsson may be challenged to complete such a high rate of sites monthly, but it is possible with the appropriate amount of resources.
Photo of Austin skyline provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.