Sprint LTE due first in Texas, Atlanta

The carrier says its new network will debut in four cities in the first half 2012

Sprint Nextel will launch LTE in the first half of this year, most likely beginning in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas, and Atlanta, the company announced on Thursday.

Those cities are expected to be the first to get LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and upgrades to Sprint's 3G network, CEO Dan Hesse announced at the Citigroup Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications Conference in San Francisco, Sprint said.

The initial rollouts would put Sprint right in the face of AT&T, which it has bitterly fought over the latter's failed bid to acquire T-Mobile USA. AT&T is based in Dallas, and its wireless arm, AT&T Mobility, operates out of Atlanta.

Sprint was the first major U.S. carrier with a 4G network when it rolled out a WiMax network with partner Clearwire in 2008, but it will be deploying LTE later than rivals Verizon and AT&T. Sprint has said that its LTE network would launch and reach approximately 275 million U.S. residents by early 2014.

The LTE network will be deployed as part of Sprint's Network Vision project, in which it will deploy multimode base stations throughout the U.S. that can host multiple types of networks. The coming upgrades will also bring improved 3G voice and data quality, higher network reliability and stronger in-building signal penetration, Sprint said.

LTE and Network Vision play critical roles in Sprint's future. As mobile operators around the world overwhelmingly adopt LTE, that technology is expected to generate a greater variety of client devices than WiMax. And Sprint hopes to use the Network Vision system to host an LTE network for hybrid wireless carrier LightSquared, in a 15-year, US$9 billion deal if that company wins permission to launch its service.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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