Sprint Spark Speeds Up LTE
October 31, 2013

Sprint Spark Uses Untapped Spectrum For Faster LTE

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Sprint, the nation’s fourth largest cellular carrier, announced plans to improve their LTE coverage and speeds by creating of pool of spectrum from which to draw. The service, called Sprint Spark, will combine spectrum from ClearWire and Nextel - both Sprint properties - to boost download speeds to 50 and 60 megabits per second. At it’s peak, Sprint says Spark should be able to exceed one gigabit per second.

Sprint is testing this new service in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Tampa, but only customers with the right mobile device will see these increased speeds. Sprint also expanded their LTE network to cover 45 new, smaller markets. This brings their total coverage to 230 markets across the US.

“Today’s announcement means that we are continuing our nationwide network enhancements, tower by tower, to provide even more Sprint customers the speed and power of Sprint 4G LTE,” said Bob Azzi, Sprint’s senior vice president.

Sprint Spark uses some clever engineering to reach these speeds, but they wouldn’t be possible in this way without the added spectrum from ClearWire and Nextel. Currently, Sprint is rolling out their LTE network in their 800 MHz to 1.9 GHz bands. It then combines these bands with the 2.5 GHz bands Sprint bought when they acquired ClearWire. It is on this 2.5 GHz band that Spark will reside. Here, Spark will combine the frequencies and make them work as if they are one giant block of spectrum.

The carrier demonstrated the technology in California yesterday and was able to achieve download speeds of 1.3 gigabits per second. If Sprint is able to find more spectrum, they could potentially boost this speed as high as two gigabits per second.

A collection of antennas, transmitters and receivers are also used to deliver Spark to customers. Sprint also announced four new Android smartphones capable of taking full advantage of the tri-band technology — the Samsung Galaxy Mega and Galaxy S4 Mini, the LG G2 and the HTC One Max. The LG and Samsung phones will be available with two-year plans on the network beginning November 8, while the HTC One Max is said to be available “soon.”

Sprint says customers using Spark won’t have their connection disrupted when they switch from one band to another, but there will be speed fluctuations on the different bands. While using LTE data on their 1.9 GHz band, customers will see peak speeds near 30 Mbps. More often than not, however, they’ll get much slower average speeds — somewhere near six to eight Mbps. Spark could be available to 100 million US residents by the end of the year, and the company hopes their total LTE coverage will reach 200 million residents by the same time.

Sprint’s new 4G LTE markets mostly cover smaller and rural areas of the United States, though mid-sized cities such as Pensacola and Spokane are also getting their coverage today. Cities such as Fort Smith, Arkansas; Jefferson City, Missouri; Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts; and Tyler, Texas are all getting coverage today as a part of Sprint’s continuing roll-out of their LTE network.