Sprint plans to launch its high-speed 4G LTE network in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio later this year, but did not say when the service may roll out in Los Angeles.
Sprint's first LTE markets are to be activated "in the first half of 2012" along with improved 3G coverage and improvements in "boosting voice and data quality," Sprint Nextel Corp. said in a statement. In December, Sprint also began testing its LTE towers in Kankakee, Ill.
The LTE technology enables Sprint customers to have noticeably faster download and upload speeds on smartphones, tablets and mobile hot spots.
Sprint's current 4G WiMax network offers users average download speeds of about 3 to 6 megabytes per second, which is about four times faster than 3G service.
LTE, which uses different cellular-tower and in-phone-chip technology to build out the network (among other differences), offers higher top speeds than WiMax or the 4G HSPA networks used by AT&T and T-Mobile.
LTE networks promise speeds that can be as much as 10 times faster than 3G service, with theoretical peaks of 300 megabytes per second for downloads and 75 megabytes per second for uploads. Among the nation's four largest carriers, only Verizon and AT&T currently have LTE networks up and running.
Sprint said it planned to launch up to 15 devices, "including handsets, tablets and data cards," in 2012 that would be able to run on its LTE network and its 3G CDMA network if LTE is out of range.
As for customers with WiMax devices, Sprint said it remained "committed to our WiMax customers and plans to sell WiMax devices with two-year contracts through 2012."