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Why are there no Sprint phones that support future LTE bands?


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Here is the deal: I am up for an upgrade now and my contract ends in 2 months. I currently have an EVO3D (wimax) phone. Why is it that Sprint can't seem to offer phones that won't quickly be outdated as future bands roll out?

 

It seems to me that anyone buying a new phone now on contract is going to be only able to access a third of the potential LTE network that Sprint will offer. Can someone explain why this is so difficult for Sprint?

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Here is the deal: I am up for an upgrade now and my contract ends in 2 months. I currently have an EVO3D (wimax) phone. Why is it that Sprint can't seem to offer phones that won't quickly be outdated as future bands roll out?

 

It seems to me that anyone buying a new phone now on contract is going to be only able to access a third of the potential LTE network that Sprint will offer. Can someone explain why this is so difficult for Sprint?

 

Your perspective is all wrong. First, I can't help but contrast this to another prevalent comment I see...why does Sprint sell LTE devices if they do not have LTE in my area? If you make devices for a not yet built network, people complain. If you don't sell devices for an upcoming network, people complain.

 

The answer to your question is, Sprint is not ready to sell them. TD-LTE 2600 is a new band using TDD technology instead of FDD-LTE technology that Sprint is currently using. There is a lot of work that is being done to coordinate handoffs of these technology and getting the device ecosystem ready. While LTE 800 is FDD and not quite having those same challenges, Sprint only somewhat recently received authorization from the FCC to allow LTE in the 800 band. They just started testing that band in an FIT in Minnesota. These bands will be added to devices later this year, when Sprint and the OEM's are ready. It's just that simple.

 

It's not that it is so difficult for Sprint, as if they are inept. They are adding bands that are not mature and not currently supported by anyone really yet. Sprint is having to do all the heavy lifting with getting these two bands off the ground.

 

Also, I can't help but think of the original EVO LTE, Galaxy Nexus and GS3. People said the same thing. My phone is going to be outdated right away. Yet, here we are, they did not outdate and their upgrade cycle is already coming to an end. Sprint is not an exception to this. Up until recently, no Verizon devices supported LTE AWS, and still offers very few. T-Mobile still sells many device that do not support LTE at all. AT&T is the best when it comes to supporting multiple bands, but there were a lot of people mad who bought AT&T 4G flagship phones as LTE started being deployed.

 

What you are describing is not a problem with Sprint, but an issue with evolving wireless networks. And there is no end in sight. It is the nature of the business.

 

Robert

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By the time Network Vision is rolled out, the 4G LTE coverage will be slightly smaller than the current 3G footprint. If you get 4G LTE coverage currently, especially in-building, then being band future proof is actually not that big of a deal. It's only if you have in-building coverage issues, or live in a marginal service (rural) area that 800 MHz will be required.

 

2500 MHz, on the other hand, is more for capacity than anything else, so you're not missing anything, really.

 

...and Rob beats me to it, lol.

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Your perspective is all wrong. First, I can't help but contrast this to another prevalent comment I see...why does Sprint sell LTE devices if they do not have LTE in my area? If you make devices for a not yet built network, people complain. If you don't sell devices for an upcoming network, people complain.

 

The answer to your question is, Sprint is not ready to sell them. TD-LTE 2600 is a new band using TDD technology instead of FDD-LTE technology that Sprint is currently using. There is a lot of work that is being done to coordinate handoffs of these technology and getting the device ecosystem ready. While LTE 800 is FDD and not quite having those same challenges, Sprint only somewhat recently received authorization from the FCC to allow LTE in the 800 band. They just started testing that band in an FIT in Minnesota. These bands will be added to devices later this year, when Sprint and the OEM's are ready. It's just that simple.

 

It's not that it is so difficult for Sprint, as if they are inept. They are adding bands that are not mature and not currently supported by anyone really yet. Sprint is having to do all the heavy lifting with getting these two bands off the ground.

 

Also, I can't help but think of the original EVO LTE, Galaxy Nexus and GS3. People said the same thing. My phone is going to be outdated right away. Yet, here we are, they did not outdate and their upgrade cycle is already coming to an end. Sprint is not an exception to this. Up until recently, no Verizon devices supported LTE AWS, and still offers very few. T-Mobile still sells many device that do not support LTE at all. AT&T is the best when it comes to supporting multiple bands, but there were a lot of people mad who bought AT&T 4G flagship phones as LTE started being deployed.

 

What you are describing is not a problem with Sprint, but an issue with evolving wireless networks. And there is no end in sight. It is the nature of the business.

 

Robert

 

I have the GS2 which is actually a great phone in every way, even still. This is especially true now that it has officially received Jelly Bean. Up until receiving JB, I was itching to upgrade. Now, I'm actually cool. The only thing I am missing is LTE as this is clearly a Wimax phone. However, here in Atlanta as in some other wimax/LTE co-covered areas, the Wimax speeds are very good (at least where you can get it). I get great Wimax speeds at home and at work (even faster than what my coworkers get on LTE in the exact same spot, per the speedtest app). So, for me, the great urge to upgrade to LTE has been greatly diminished.

 

That said, would you recommend I wait to upgrade until this fall, once LTE 800 phones are likely to be sold? That way I'll be a little ahead of the curve and in no great pain for waiting. Or do you think there is a chance that LTE 800 phones will not be sold by then? Just curious as my contract is up in August and I am evaluating what's best for me (upgrading to HTC One or GS4 now with no 800 support, waiting til fall when I hope there will be 800 LTE phones being sold, or go to tmobile, at least temporarily and see how that goes).

 

Thanks for any input you may have in this regard.

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By the time Network Vision is rolled out, the 4G LTE coverage will be slightly smaller than the current 3G footprint. If you get 4G LTE coverage currently, especially in-building, then being band future proof is actually not that big of a deal. It's only if you have in-building coverage issues, or live in a marginal service (rural) area that 800 MHz will be required.

 

2500 MHz, on the other hand, is more for capacity than anything else, so you're not missing anything, really.

 

...and Rob beats me to it, lol.

 

The one thing you WILL miss is a phone that supports LTE other than a 5 X 5 configuration, which Sprint will eventually do (ie 10x10, 20x20, etc). So with current phones, you will miss out on faster speeds later. Even though I think the current LTE speeds are good enough for a smartphone.

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I have the GS2 which is actually a great phone in every way, even still. This is especially true now that it has officially received Jelly Bean. Up until receiving JB, I was itching to upgrade. Now, I'm actually cool. The only thing I am missing is LTE as this is clearly a Wimax phone. However, here in Atlanta as in some other wimax/LTE co-covered areas, the Wimax speeds are very good (at least where you can get it). I get great Wimax speeds at home and at work (even faster than what my coworkers get on LTE in the exact same spot, per the speedtest app). So, for me, the great urge to upgrade to LTE has been greatly diminished.

 

That said, would you recommend I wait to upgrade until this fall, once LTE 800 phones are likely to be sold? That way I'll be a little ahead of the curve and in no great pain for waiting. Or do you think there is a chance that LTE 800 phones will not be sold by then? Just curious as my contract is up in August and I am evaluating what's best for me (upgrading to HTC One or GS4 now with no 800 support, waiting til fall when I hope there will be 800 LTE phones being sold, or go to tmobile, at least temporarily and see how that goes).

 

Thanks for any input you may have in this regard.

 

Given your circumstances, and the GS2 meeting your needs, I would hang out for a tri band phone. In fact, if something happens to your phone, I'd just pick up a replacement WiMax or LTE phone on the cheap on Ebay to tie you over until the tribands come out. You are in a good spot to hang out for triband. However, if you decide to take the plunge with the new One or GS4, you will likely still have a good experience for your whole contract.

 

Robert

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Given your circumstances, and the GS2 meeting your needs, I would hang out for a tri band phone. In fact, if something happens to your phone, I'd just pick up a replacement WiMax or LTE phone on the cheap on Ebay to tie you over until the tribands come out. You are in a good spot to hang out for triband. However, if you decide to take the plunge with the new One or GS4, you will likely still have a good experience for your whole contract.

 

Robert

Thanks, I appreciate the input. One last thing - do you think we'll see tri band phones before Christmas? My instinct is that that is precisely when we'll see them....mid to late fall. But what do you think?

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I get great Wimax speeds at home and at work (even faster than what my coworkers get on LTE in the exact same spot, per the speedtest app). So, for me, the great urge to upgrade to LTE has been greatly diminished.

 

The issue with WiMAX was not so much speed as it was coverage and battery life. In Atlanta, you have pretty good WiMAX site density, as do/did I in Kansas City. But how is your battery life? The problem is that WiMAX handsets all utilized multiple chipsets, and those chipsets were several generations prior to the ~28 nm process chipsets that we have now. Had WiMAX stayed relevant longer, we would have seen improvements in power management, just as we have with LTE handsets.

 

That said, would you recommend I wait to upgrade until this fall, once LTE 800 phones are likely to be sold? That way I'll be a little ahead of the curve and in no great pain for waiting.

 

Keep in mind that Atlanta is a SouthernLINC market; thus, Sprint has to share rebanded SMR 800 MHz with SouthernLINC. For that reason, there may be no LTE 800 in Atlanta. Or, if there is, it will likely be 3 MHz FDD bandwidth, as compared to the 5 MHz FDD bandwidth available outside of the Southeast and IBEZ. So, LTE 800 could help with coverage in Atlanta, but it would not likely help with speed.

 

AJ

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The one thing you WILL miss is a phone that supports LTE other than a 5 X 5 configuration, which Sprint will eventually do (ie 10x10, 20x20, etc). So with current phones, you will miss out on faster speeds later. Even though I think the current LTE speeds are good enough for a smartphone.

 

For whatever reason, the 5 MHz FDD limitation affects Samsung devices. But from my series of FCC OET articles, I can say that HTC, Motorola, LG, and Apple devices are authorized for at least 10 MHz FDD configuration, too.

 

AJ

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The issue with WiMAX was not so much speed as it was coverage and battery life. In Atlanta, you have pretty good WiMAX site density, as do/did I in Kansas City. But how is your battery life? The problem is that WiMAX handsets all utilized multiple chipsets, and those chipsets were several generations prior to the ~28 nm process chipsets that we have now. Had WiMAX stayed relevant longer, we would have seen improvements in power management, just as we have with LTE handsets.

 

 

 

Keep in mind that Atlanta is a SouthernLINC market; thus, Sprint has to share rebanded SMR 800 MHz with SouthernLINC. For that reason, there may be no LTE 800 in Atlanta. Or, if there is, it will likely be 3 MHz FDD bandwidth, as compared to the 5 MHz FDD bandwidth available outside of the Southeast and IBEZ. So, LTE 800 could help with coverage in Atlanta, but it would not likely help with speed.

 

AJ

 

AJ

 

YES, the battery life is borderline awful. Thanks for the background info on that. However, i try to mitigate that issue as much as possible by using wifi at home (even though our wifi is fairly slow by wifi standards). But at work and out and about, I will periodically toggle to 4G.

 

Something I left out in my previous post, however, is that the 3G speeds here are now generally good enough for casual web surfing, streaming and the like (whereas they weren't before the start of NV). This is wonderful, indeed.

 

Regarding the 800 mhz spectrum issues you speak of..wow, I had no idea. I need to read up more on this so that I fully understand it. I blindly assumed that LTE on 800 was the magic bullet for the whole of the Sprint network, nationwide. I now see that I was in error. That is not the best news that I've heard but not the worst either. Either way, anything above 4 or 5 mbps is plenty enough for a smartphone, at least in my experience.

 

The information I learn from this site continues to surprise me on a near daily basis. Thanks again!

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Keep in mind that Atlanta is a SouthernLINC market; thus, Sprint has to share rebanded SMR 800 MHz with SouthernLINC. For that reason, there may be no LTE 800 in Atlanta. Or, if there is, it will likely be 3 MHz FDD bandwidth, as compared to the 5 MHz FDD bandwidth available outside of the Southeast and IBEZ. So, LTE 800 could help with coverage in Atlanta, but it would not likely help with speed.
Now, this is going to sound stupid as I don't fully understand the tech, but what would require Sprint to stick with FDD LTE? Would TDD LTE not be efficient on 800 MHz, or is the band simply not "rated" for it? My understanding is that the asynchronicity of TDD LTE makes it more spectrally efficient for data tasks.
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*snip*

Robert,

Thanks for the reply and that helps clarify a lot of things for me. I had assumed that Sprint was holding off on authorizing devices for these bands rather than having to deal with getting phone manufacturers on board.

 

My followup is similar to JonnygATL: I live in an area with decent wimax coverage (Austin, TX) so should I consider holding off my upgrade? The alternative would be to go to T-Mobile (HSPA+/LTE here) until these devices are released. 3G/4G on Sprint is extremely slow in Austin. Actually it is the slowest network here even behind Cricket wireless!

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Now, this is going to sound stupid as I don't fully understand the tech, but what would require Sprint to stick with FDD LTE? Would TDD LTE not be efficient on 800 MHz, or is the band simply not "rated" for it? My understanding is that the asynchronicity of TDD LTE makes it more spectrally efficient for data tasks.

 

I believe it relates to how the FCC has designated the spectrum. FDD has defined uplink and downlink areas, where as TDD is just a block of spectrum with the uplink and downlink sharing it.

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Robert,

Thanks for the reply and that helps clarify a lot of things for me. I had assumed that Sprint was holding off on authorizing devices for these bands rather than having to deal with getting phone manufacturers on board.

 

My followup is similar to JonnygATL: I live in an area with decent wimax coverage (Austin, TX) so should I consider holding off my upgrade? The alternative would be to go to T-Mobile (HSPA+/LTE here) until these devices are released. 3G/4G on Sprint is extremely slow in Austin. Actually it is the slowest network here even behind Cricket wireless!

 

LTE coverage is getting pretty darn ubiquitous in the Austin area (except for downtown). So if WiMax is not meeting your needs (which it sounds like it might not), then you may want to jump ship to a LTE device now. If you stay in urban areas most of the time, LTE 800 may not be a big deal for you. I don't think LTE 2600 will be in a place like Austin for 1-2 years anyway. And when it does, it will be one site here and one site there for capacity. You will get to upgrade again in 20 months.

 

If you are able to ride out WiMax until late Fall when tribands are anticipated, then go for it. Another option is to upgrade now and get a WiMax hotspot for those times when you are outside of LTE coverage. Triband LTE will be nifty in many ways. But will not be useful for some time for many users, and will not be a hindrance to most users to have a LTE 1900 only device either.

 

Robert

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Now, this is going to sound stupid as I don't fully understand the tech, but what would require Sprint to stick with FDD LTE? Would TDD LTE not be efficient on 800 MHz, or is the band simply not "rated" for it? My understanding is that the asynchronicity of TDD LTE makes it more spectrally efficient for data tasks.

 

Well, let us first break down rebanded SMR 800 MHz -- more specifically, the ESMR portion that Sprint controls. At its maximum bandwidth (e.g. outside of the Southeast and IBEZ), Sprint ESMR is 817-824 MHz x 862-869 MHz. See my graphic:

 

800bandplan1X.png

 

The bandwidth is divided into 7 MHz uplink and 7 MHz downlink. This is what I generally refer to as 7 MHz x 7 MHz, or more succinctly, 7 MHz FDD.

 

Now, technically speaking, the uplink and downlink could be unpaired so that TDD airlinks could operate in each. But this would require FCC approval. And TDD operation in the 862-869 MHz segment would likely prove problematic, as that segment is directly adjacent to the Cellular 850 MHz downlink at 869-894 MHz.

 

TDD mobiles would be transmitting on a time division basis in 862-869 MHz, while nearby FDD mobiles would be receiving the Cellular 850 MHz downlink in 869-894 MHz. Adjacent uplink and downlink with nearby transmitters and receivers can cause interference due to spurious emissions.

 

This is similar to the problem faced between LightSquared and GPS, as well as Dish S-band/AWS-4 and PCS/AWS-2 H block.

 

AJ

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Care to elaborate ......

 

Sent from my SPH-L710 using Tapatalk 2

 

All I know is one quick email I received from a source who said that FIT testing was under way in "MN" and they had very good LTE 800 results getting 33Mbps+ at 3 miles away. The source didn't have any more info than that. MN is Minnesota, but it's possible that it was actually Montana.

 

Robert

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LTE coverage is getting pretty darn ubiquitous in the Austin area (except for downtown). So if WiMax is not meeting your needs (which it sounds like it might not), then you may want to jump ship to a LTE device now. If you stay in urban areas most of the time, LTE 800 may not be a big deal for you. I don't think LTE 2600 will be in a place like Austin for 1-2 years anyway. And when it does, it will be one site here and one site there for capacity. You will get to upgrade again in 20 months.

 

If you are able to ride out WiMax until late Fall when tribands are anticipated, then go for it. Another option is to upgrade now and get a WiMax hotspot for those times when you are outside of LTE coverage. Triband LTE will be nifty in many ways. But will not be useful for some time for many users, and will not be a hindrance to most users to have a LTE 1900 only device either.

 

Robert

So LTE 800 is better at penetrating buildings correct? Wouldn't that make it more valuable to someone in a more urban area? Maybe I am just overthinking things because you are correct that WiMax is not meeting my needs right now partially due to coverage but also partially due to battery drain inherent in the radio design. I feel like I am off an upgrade cycle with Sprint though as I am on the last WiMax phone and missed the first LTE phone and now I am possibly getting on an LTE 1900 phone while missing the first LTE 800/LTE1900 phones and that irks me a bit.

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All I know is one quick email I received from a source who said that FIT testing was under way in "MN" and they had very good LTE 800 results getting 33Mbps+ at 3 miles away. The source didn't have any more info than that. MN is Minnesota, but it's possible that it was actually Montana.

 

Robert

What!? This is huge! How did I miss this?
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So LTE 800 is better at penetrating buildings correct? Wouldn't that make it more valuable to someone in a more urban area? Maybe I am just overthinking things because you are correct that WiMax is not meeting my needs right now partially due to coverage but also partially due to battery drain inherent in the radio design. I feel like I am off an upgrade cycle with Sprint though as I am on the last WiMax phone and missed the first LTE phone and now I am possibly getting on an LTE 1900 phone while missing the first LTE 800/LTE1900 phones and that irks me a bit.

 

Whether LTE 800 will be slightly useful or very useful to you depends on what type of buildings you go in and what kind of site density you have in your area. LTE 800 will not be a building penetration panacea, it will only be better than LTE 1900. LTE 800 will not work as well as CDMA 800. If you struggle with CDMA 1900 inside buildings now, then you may need LTE 800. If it works pretty good for you in most building types, then your need for LTE 800 is significantly reduced.

 

I cannot give you definite answers. Only information to help you decide. There are just millions of variables when it comes to RF propagation and wireless network deployment schemes vary from site to site.

 

Robert

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MN is Minnesota, but it's possible that it was actually Montana.

 

In related news, both Minnesotans and Montanans are outraged at being potentially mistaken for one another. According to Minnesotan Ole Gunnarson, "Oh yeah, we don't want to be associated with those roughneck ranchers." In response, "What in the sam hill is lutefisk?!" asked Montanan Wyatt Custer.

 

AJ

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The biggest issue is that sprint is still selling (and advertising!) the GS2.

 

But I do agree OP, im upgrading to the S4 this year and am very disappointed it wont have 800 LTE.

 

Is your "biggest issue" conceived under the assumption that customers are too inept on smartphone technology to understand or expect there to be a difference between a free device thats advertised as the "Galaxy S II" (not Epic 4G touch) and a device that costs $100-$249 and says "4G LTE? When you view this phone on sprint's site, it includes "4G WIMAX" under its "key features" and further down, tells you "4G WIMAX is not available in your area". Perhaps retailers aren't advertising or informing customers of this as well as the website, but c'mon.... its a free device and the disclosure is adequate. Its should be purchased by a customer wanting a huge, slim 3G capable phone with a fantastic screen and unlimited data. The very same conversation should be happening when a customer considers an Iphone4 (because its free) over an Iphone5. The GS2 is a big screen option for the Iphone4 customer (who loves free things) but hates that tiny screen.

 

If we apply this logic to other carriers, ATT and Tmobile are wrongly selling HSPA+ only phones.

 

As far as the S4, I'm dreading you buying it. Why would you buy something that you openly state disappoints you?

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Is your "biggest issue" conceived under the assumption that customers are too inept on smartphone technology to understand or expect there to be a difference between a free device thats advertised as the "Galaxy S II" (not Epic 4G touch) and a device that costs $100-$249 and says "4G LTE? When you view this phone on sprint's site, it includes "4G WIMAX" under its "key features" and further down, tells you "4G WIMAX is not available in your area". Perhaps retailers aren't advertising or informing customers of this as well as the website, but c'mon.... its a free device and the disclosure is adequate.

 

A few weeks ago amazon was advertising the galaxy 2 as "4G LTE" now it just says "4G" no mention of wimax. And we all know, affiliate stores will do anything to sell a phone, including misleading the customers on what 4G is.

 

And yes, most customers do NOT know there are two different and incompatible 4G networks. I think its foolish to continue to extend the confusion by adding new wimax customers.

 

Further, the G2 is a defective phone. Go to the sprint forums under the samsung page. 95% of the problems are GS2 related, even though that forum is for ALL samsung phones. The problems havent been fixed, so signing customers up to a knowingly defective phone is a very bad policy idea. Once you lose a customer, good job getting them back.

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A few weeks ago amazon was advertising the galaxy 2 as "4G LTE" now it just says "4G" no mention of wimax. And we all know, affiliate stores will do anything to sell a phone, including misleading the customers on what 4G is.

 

And yes, most customers do NOT know there are two different and incompatible 4G networks. I think its foolish to continue to extend the confusion by adding new wimax customers.

 

Further, the G2 is a defective phone. Go to the sprint forums under the samsung page. 95% of the problems are GS2 related, even though that forum is for ALL samsung phones. The problems havent been fixed, so signing customers up to a knowingly defective phone is a very bad policy idea. Once you lose a customer, good job getting them back.

 

I do not understand why Sprint continues to sell the GS2, preowned samsung epic, evo shift Wimax phones. sprint should only be promoting its 4G LTE network and leave Wimax in the dust.

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