I haven’t been able to get word from Sprint about their long-term plans — not officially anyway, and it’s the source of some confusion in the wireless industry. The confusion stems from their other “4G” technology: WiMax, and it’s potential future with the company.
Running two 4G technologies side-by-side seems like an inefficient use of spectrum. Ironically AT&T is doing something very similar by running HSPA+ and LTE side-by-side, both of which are “4G”. (For those of you who disagree with that classification, I’m with you, but I’m using the term in line with the carriers’ definition of 4G.)
AT&T’s move seems more logical: LTE is arguably a larger technological jump from HSPA+ than from WiMax. So why would Sprint run both WiMax and LTE? Is WiMax ripe for the chopping block?
I couldn’t find a Sprint representative willing to go on the record about either of those two questions, but one was willing to talk, so long as I don’t mention his name.
According to my source, officially, Sprint is still committed to WiMax, but is getting pressure from consumers who are gravitating to “LTE” rather than “4G” due to successes in marketing from other carriers. To combat that (and for other undisclosed reasons) Sprint is rolling out LTE as well.
Is Sprint going to phase out LTE? My source say WiMax expansion will likely slow (or already has) and LTE expansion will likely pick up. Eventually LTE will replace WiMax, but not any time soon.
Will Sprint come out with dual-mode WiMax/LTE phones? Not likely.
Should owners of current WiMax phones be worried falling back to 3G speeds? Not for quite a while. By then, they’ll likely be in the market for a new phone anyway, and Sprint LTE will be in many, many more places at that point in time.