1st Sprint LTE iPhone To Run on 1st Hybrid 4G-LTE Network?


At the time of writing, Sprint is an “Apple competitor”, but corporate insiders confirmed last month that iPhone 5 or iPhone 4S LTE (whatever would be the name of the first 4G-LTE compatible iPhone) would be open to Sprint’s network. Does anything of this has something to do with the hotly debated LightSquared satellite broadband network from which Sprint will get most of its satellite 4G-LTE spectrum next year?

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A 4G-LTE compatible iPhone can browse the Net, download multimedia files and send emails at a much faster speed. Verizon and AT&T have been aggressively expanding their 4G-LTE capacity since the FCC approved the 4G-LTE standard last year. But the two biggest mobile phone carriers face great uncertainties in the 4G-LTE arena with the planned integration of Sprint and LightSquared networks.

In July 2011, Sprint and LightSquared, an LTE broadband provider, signed a network service agreement that would licence Sprint to operate the ground network and L-band spectrum of LightSquared.

For a wireless broadband technology to be considered 4G, its downstream speed should fall within the range of 100MB-1GB/second. How faster is 4G than 3G all depends on the implementation of standards applicable to a certain carrier. 4G is mainly designed to facilitate data transmission, though it can also support voice signals. 4G expedites the speed of sending emails, video streaming and online gaming.

LightSquared’s 4G-LTE network is unique in two ways. First, it offers satellite broadband spectrum; second, it would combine 3G and 4G networks to deliver wireless broadband to resellers. What does it mean for Verizon and AT&T? More competition, net-neutral industry practices and more affordable iPhone broadband subscription plans.

Last year, LightSquared launched itsSkyTerra 1 satellite which is equipped with 22-meter L-band antenna, the world’s largest. This satellite will ensure broadband coverage to all LTE iPhone users in any areas of the U.S. beyond the reach of 3G cell sites.

The network-sharing agreement with Sprint will enable LightSquared to meet the timeline for the launching of its complete hybrid network in 2012.  Sprint's cell sites will be the terrestrial backbone of the hybrid network that would deliver combined 4G/3G data services to the wholesale customers of LightSquared.

The FCC is yet to decide if LightSquared can operate its L-band spectrum amid GPS interference issues. If the FCC gives the go signal, LightSquared and Sprint will make it easier and economical for existing and incoming wireless broadband companies to deliver 4G services. The hybrid network will be the first of its kind in the world.

The 4G-LTE hype and growing competition seem to prompt Apple to consider opening iPhones to Sprint. Apple needs Sprint’s 4G LTE and 3G networks as much as the carrier needs a share of the lucrative iPhone market. Sprint lost 101,000 contract customers in the second quarter, while Apple’s competitors are quick to jump into the 4G craze because they have more than two carriers, unlike iPhone.

About the Author

Bradley Zarich blogs for Newsat, an Australian ISP and satellite communications company. As a manager for eServe BPO’s web services accounts, he keeps the online community updated with the latest developments in wireless communications, satellite broadband, Internet technology, web marketing and e-commerce.

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