While Sprint's tri-band LTE network is far from a secret, the company's going on an all-out marketing offensive promoting the technology, which it's now given a name: Sprint Spark. Capitalizing on the unique capabilities of its newly-purchased Clearwire spectrum, Sprint is set to roll out what will likely be the US's largest LTE network in terms of spectrum usage over the coming years. That's primarily because Sprint's Clearwire acquisition granted it a block of wireless spectrum from 2500-2600MHz, the single largest contiguous frequency lease in use by any mobile data provider in the United States.

Because Sprint controls such a large unimpeded hunk o' spectrum, this will allow it to be the first carrier in the US to outfit its towers with 8x8 radio heads (8 transmitters, 8 receivers), greatly increasing the throughput capacity of the network. Sprint will also be the first mobile network in the US to deploy a TDD LTE network, which should help keep costs down. That 2500MHz network buildout actually hasn't started outside of a few select cities, but Sprint has chosen partners in the form of Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Solutions, and Samsung to supply the necessary equipment.


Sprint announced the first tri-band markets are Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Tampa - theoretically, customers in those cities with tri-band capable devices should be able to take advantage of the newly-enhanced network immediately, subject to the likely limited coverage that will be available at launch.

The problem is, though, that none of Sprint's current phones actually support tri-band yet - the first devices will launch on November 8th. Those phones are the Galaxy S4 Mini, the Galaxy Mega 6.3, the LG G2, and the HTC One Max. Sprint says "select" smartphones will receive tri-band support in OTA updates in the coming months, though we know the Galaxy Note 3 won't be one of them. And, rather importantly, three of the four devices launching on the 8th won't support Spark out of the box. The One Max, G2, and Galaxy Mega will all need to receive OTA updates at a later date in order to access Sprint's 2500MHz band. The G2's update isn't expected until 2014. Only the Galaxy S4 Mini will ship fully Spark-ready.

Sprint's promising speeds up to 50-60Mbps on the enhanced network with the carrier's current technological limitations considered, though presumably that's outdoors and in fairly ideal conditions (2500MHz signal does not have great building penetration). In the future, though, Sprint alleges there's enough capacity on the network to support speeds up to 2Gbps, and conducted an over-the-air demo [in a controlled test lab] that achieved 1Gbps. Don't get too excited about gigabit mobile data just yet, though - the network technology is still experimental, and the phones themselves aren't even close to being able to handle those kinds of speeds. It's nice to know that Sprint's thinking about the future, though.

Sprint estimates that the Spark network will cover 100 million people by the end of 2014. The Sprint Network Vision plan also indicates the carrier will start small cell site rollout next year to support the network, which should help alleviate weak spots in urban areas and dead zone pockets in rural regions. To read more about Spark, check out the links below.

Spark Capable Phones, Sprint Demos 1Gbps Network Speed, First Spark Cities, Spark Technology, Spark Landing Page

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • miri

    So, does that mean I'll actually get an adequate LTE signal in an LTE area? 'Cause right now I only get about 5Mbps down on average and it occasionally jumps up to 30.

    • Matt

      Probably not. I'm pretty sure the only place Sprint works is in Sprint stores.

      • Jaymoon

        You would think... Here's a speed test from inside the Sprint Store on the Sprint Campus in Overland Park, Kansas on August 2nd.

        ...still better than what I get at home in Oregon.

        • Willie D

          That's 3G and that server is hundreds of miles away. However, it is relatively true of Sprint speeds. Should rename itself Slow

          • Jaymoon

            Well, I reboot the phone, fired up SpeedTest, and hit Start. The rest is up to Sprint.

  • cheese

    Still waiting on that Google-Sprint/Softbank merger. C'mon GOOG. You got this.

    • THB101

      First off it wouldn't be a merger it would be an acquisition. Second this would be detrimental to android as a whole as they would be in competition with themselves for the most part from other carriers selling there android based products.

  • Mo

    I think this is great and all, but LTE is still just a concept to me because Sprint hasn't rolled it out here. At least I still have WIMAXX lol.

    • Sac Bunt Melvin

      San Diego has neither*. Horray!

      * There are a few random pockets of LTE downtown

      • Derail Doax

        San Diego didn't even get WiMAX? Dude switch carriers....

        • Sac Bunt Melvin

          It's soooo cheeaappp

          • Justin W

            And StraightTalk/GoPhone are so much better.

            Edit: Yes, I mean better than Sprint (price-wise and service wise)

  • Taedirk

    Look at all the fucks I don't give. Still stuck on poor quality 3G in a decent sized college town (with AT&T actively promoting 4G service here).

  • gk1984

    So... HTC One is obsolete?

    • Derail Doax

      My Sprint One was obsolete when I bought it, I only was able to get 200 Kbps down on it. My old T - Mobile G1 got 6 Mbps downloads. SPRINT SUCKS.

  • guest

    Nexus 5?

  • Andy Stetson

    Why does this remind me of Mary Poppins? Spit Spot = Sprint Spark

  • YipYap

    I hope this works for Sprint because they have the worst network. Last week my brother and I are standing next to each other. My iphone shows full signal LTE on AT&T while his iphone on Sprint showed 1x. What the hell is 1x? That's just sad. BTW, we were in Austin, Texas.

    • Willie D

      1x is the CDMA equivalent to GPRS on GSM. Dialup speeds or less.

      • oomfoofoo

        1xRTT is what everyone else refers to as 2G. EVDO = 3G, LTE = 4G.. yaddaa.. WIMAX was some sort of fake 4G or 3.5G. ;)

  • jbworldwide1

    Too late. I'm out.

    • Willie D

      Me too!

      • Derail Doax

        Me too! We just paid $1200 in ETFs to get the eff away from Sprint! Not looking back.

        • Max

          You will

      • kathemv088

        Why does this remind me of Mary Poppins? Spit Spot = Sprint Spark

    • Fifth313ment

      Yup me too! I left today (10/31) for T-Mobile with a Note 3! I am loving it! With Sprint I got 1Mb down and less up but with T-Mobile I'm getting 15+Mb down over HSPDA and 20Mb with LTE in South Florida! Whoot! So long Sprint, sorry I won't miss ya!

      • RickZ65

        I'm in SO

  • J Dub

    So basically as soon as you walk inside you will drop signal? T-mobile's frequencies suck at penetrating buildings and this is even higher than those. No news here.

    • techlte

      I don't know what magical frequencies operators are specifically using in your area.. Around these parts AWS wise Verizon is 1710-1730, ATT 1730-1735, and Tmob 1735-1755. In regards to PCS everyone is > 1850MHz.. But I'm sure you know the blocks of spectrum available nationwide.. /s

      • J Dub

        The article even says the same thing.

        "though presumably that's outdoors and in fairly ideal conditions (2500MHz signal does not have great building penetration)"

        • techlte

          If it wasn't clear I was not commenting on the article as my post was nested beneath yours.

    • Willie D

      Except with TMobile and their high frequencies where I live, San Francisco, I can get them just fine inside buildings, and can't get Sprint 1900 inside.

    • s44

      *Tri* band. They're refarming 800 for this as well.

  • popi-popi

    i like LTE and pussy but why isn't this article about Google announcing android 4.4??

    • WHO?

      So they should do one article a day?

    • lordmerovingian

      "i like LTE and pussy..." hahahahaha

  • Stiggy

    In other news, actual LTE already exists on other carriers. Cool idea sprint but no one cares because more so than any other carrier you are filled with empty promises when it comes to LTE availability. TDD LTE sounds sweet too and everybody loves the concept of 2gbps lte but once again, Sprint has their heads in the clouds.

    Left Sprint after 14 years and haven't been happier with big red.

    • Derail Doax

      Dude your story sounds like mine. I just left Sprint after being a 12 year customer and I'm happy on ATT. Must be common for long time broken hearted Sprint users.

      • Stiggy

        Hug it out. Isn't it nice to have actual internet on your phone?

        • Derail Doax

          Dude. I used to make a hot spot from my work T - Mobile phone just to check email on my Sprint personal phone.... That's how you know Sprint has a crap network.

      • Jesse

        Left sprint a few months ago and could not be happier! My first phone with them was the moto startac http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_StarTAC which was the last good memory I have from them.

      • DaMarcus Bell

        I switched to att also, now i can't make or receive calls in buildings. Seems like there are drawbacks no matter who you go to :-(

  • solbin

    Speeds around 50-60mbps as long as you are in one of the smallest towns in the US.

  • Zach Mauch

    LOL!!! 2500MHz? I can only imagine how bad the building penetration will be. You might get high speeds in ideal conditions, but the second you walk indoors I'm bettin there will be MAJOR issues.

    Why are they wasting time and money with this instead of focusing on the 800MHz LTE implementation of the old Nextel network? That's where the real value is.

    • techlte

      I've never read so many comments complaining about supplemental spectrum.. I know it's in trend to bash Sprint whenever given the chance.. but this is good news.

      As for "wasting time and money" this was an immediate announcement.. Re-farming takes time, especially when they have a capacity shortage nationwide.

      • Zach Mauch

        yeah, and the 800Mhz spectrum has already been shut down. I just don't see why they are spreading their money accross both rather than investing it all in 800.

      • Willie D

        Actually it is NOT good news.. Had Softbank never bought them, Sprint would be forced to focus on PCS 1900 and ESMR 800. MEANING they would focus on making their limited spectrum work. Do not be fooled...Sprint has a lot of PCS, they only chose to lease out capacity to MVNOs, they could terminate those agreements or limit their usage and move LTE into other PCS blocks they own, which are giant spectrum rich blocks. They chose not to, they chose to deploy in inferior open D-Block on 5x5 spectrum. With Nextel, all they have is 10Mhz to work with as well. Sprint touted their horn about how they would have an efficient use of spectrum with Network Vision, but it turns out, the equipment they are using is still less spectrum efficient than LTE-Advanced and keeping EVDO and 1x-Advanced rather than doing what foreign CDMA carriers did, move to HSPA+ which is 4x more efficient than CDMA EVDO, is really hurting them and slowing their progress. Focusing on spectrum that has only limited coverage to offer fast speeds means nothing to customers who were promised year after year that network vision would benefit them with 3G and 4G upgrades in all areas. I live in a fully built area, and experience service worse than analog days, complete with no data 100% of the time. Hearing Sprint focus on building out LTE in a frequency my phone can not use before rectifying the issues they have on the current network is upsetting and NOT good news for us at all.

        • techlte

          That's one opinion.. SB did not purchase of CW, the ball was already rolling. As far as all this spectrum you mention.. In my area (one of the immediate tri-band regions) Sprint has a total of 32MHz of spectrum (800MHz SMR 818-824, PCS 1850-1865, PCS 1910-1915, and 6MHz of which came from this BRS 2496-2502). All the being said we live in a "fully built area", have great coverage, and pretty good speeds.

          Sprint is focused on building out their network. Sprint customers should take it any way they can get it.. This announcement was based on work done during the initial LTE improvements. I'm no expert but anything including the Nextel spectrum will be performed from this point forward or when revisiting sites for the much needed back haul upgrades.

        • Dude

          Sprint didn't have money to invest into a lot so rollout would have been SLOW. With Softbank, they're actively rolling out LTE 800/Voice 800 at the same time as LTE 2500. Just because they article only states 2500, it doesn't mean that Sprint is only investing in 2500.

    • Dude

      That's what LTE/Voice 800 will help with. 2500 Mhz is to keep the people outside off the lower frequencies so it'll be a better experience inside for those forced onto 800Mhz. Tri-Band refers to 800/1900/2500 frequencies.

  • Willie D

    Yeah right! Offering us speeds tomorrow and next year that other carrier's already have today is a joke. Upgrading to new devices with promises of new better LTE coverage is a slap in the face to all Sprint customers who have devices that are LTE capable that don't work. Spark is a powder keg of bullshit waiting to explode in failure.

    • Fifth313ment

      Let me see, WiMAX will be coming soon, then LTE will be coming soon and finally now Spark will be coming soon! LOL, Sprint is always advertising coming soon but never gets there! :P

      • Justin

        Technically a lot of places already have LTE, and they got rid of WiMAX, all areas are being upgraded to LTE and Spark. I have LTE near me and it works very fast and well, although the 3G is blisteringly slow.

  • Derail Doax

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA SUCH BS! Sprint I'm tired of all your broken promises. 50 Mbps? Yeah right! The backbone of Sprints network can't provide that kind of bandwidth. I had full bars of LTE and I still only got 2 Mbps. BYE BYE SPRINT, won't miss you. I'm loving ATT so far.

    • michael73072

      The bars you see in the notification bar are for voice signal, not data. You need to download an app to see your LTE signal strength.

      • Derail Doax

        Sprint doesn't have VoLTE. If you go into the diagnostics mode by typing in *#*#4636#*#* and force the phone to do LTE Data Only, the bar count will be different than when you have it in 3G voice/data mode. So if the bar strength shows differently what are you saying it's reporting? It obviously is reporting on radio signal strength. If you look at the dB rating within the phone status the changes that happen in there are directly proportional to bar count. When I forced LTE Data Only it was full bars and still only returning 2 Mbps. Most of the time here in Seattle I was running at 70-200 Kbps on their EVDO network. It was practically unusable on my HTC One. My flagship phone had a 200 Kbps connection most days. I was tired of paying for such poor service. Good riddens Sprint. If your experience is better where you live then awesome for you. That makes me happy. But don't lie to yourself for 12 years like I did that you're getting an equal network to Verizon or AT&T.

    • JayQ330

      Funny but they're doing it while Verizon xlte can't handle the congestion in nyc to give you a consistent 50 MBS at the least, Sprint new towers can push it those speeds & is never congested thanks to the 3 bands evening things out.

  • duke69111

    Im confused. Is the Tri band the same as LTE Advanced?

    • Scott


  • Geary Saddler

    This news is sort of bs in my opinion, they started with wimax being a horrible mistake, then bring the stupidest average data speeds of lte in the mobile business.... ex. I'm in NY yesterday at my job having no access to wifi or pc data access.... since sprint doesn’t work in my building I was pissed since I had no access to data for 7 hours... now, owning a galaxy s 4 my device can't achieve triband lte..... Man I truly regret leaving T-Mobile for sprint earlier this year, I’m going to drop $500 for etf and final bill in January to go prepaid in T-Mobile.... why pay for unlimited data when it is unusable or speed are dial-up like

    for the win

    • Derail Doax

      Man. Why wait till January? Your ETF isn't dropping significantly. It starts at $350.

    • BigJohn89

      Dude, why pay the ETF at all. Call their customer service at least daily (better yet, do it 2-3 times) and become a pain to them. They have been known to dump problem customers ETF-free!

    • JayQ330

      T-Mobile Will pay your etf if you switch to their network, IMO go with T-Mobile & if sprint & T-Mobile merge you'll be in the best network on the planet. They're both unlimited, sprints ready pay & "framily plan" are T-Mobile one up on steroids, I believe since sprints bands are all lte a GSM technology, they will go GSM all the way & with a T-Mobile merger it will be 100% possible to be a full 4G network. Hopefully this merger happens, 700 MHz block A, 800 MHz lte, 1.7/2.1 GHz aws, 1.9 +1.9 GHz from T-Mobile & sprint refarmed for lte & HSDPA+ or just wider lte. It'll be no.1 in no time.

  • Brian Menius
  • ConCal

    Excited for my Nexus 5 to have "Spark."

    • Danny Lewis

      Where in the article does it say that the Nexus 5 has it?

      • ConCal

        Not from this article, but in the leaked spec sheets it was seen that the N5 would have the tri-band LTE.
        Now that it has been announced, it has been confirmed by Sprint.

  • kamiller42

    Great article. Haters gonna hate.

  • HopelesslyFaithful

    and the pointless bitching on APs comment section continues....sigh

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    2014 will be a great year for sprint vs tmobile

    Who will win my money!!!

    • slicknick87

      sprint just made a bid recently for them and i think t mobile might give in too cause the company that owns them doesnt want them any more thats why att made the bid a couple year ago look it up the big 4 might be the big 3

      • dontsh00tmesanta

        Fcc may block it like they blocked att

      • Brandon

        Yeah but then there's the whole unlocking and GSM and CDMA crap. Compatibility sucks as it is right now anyway

  • GiantJay

    Maybe "Spark" can help light a fire under Sprint's ass so they can get moving on fixing their broken "Network."

    • Danny Lewis

      I'd say the huge cash infusion from SoftBank did that.

  • Rob

    I've been a huge critic of Sprint's of late. They took years to bring the Network Vision upgrades to the towers in my area, and many are still undergoing those upgrades. While I typically would see 3G speeds of 0.11 and 0.34, down/up respectively, I'm now getting between 1 and 3 Mbps down and slightly less up. Now, I know that's not anything to write home about, but it is at least indicative of them trying to fix the problem. They also lit up 4G LTE in my area for the first time on October 17. Those rates, when the 4G services is available, often compare to what I've seen on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network, though Sprint claims the upgraded tower will remain in an optimization window for 30 days, after which I should start to see improvements in speeds. The tri-band Spark network is meaningless to me right now, but I'll see if my Nexus 5 has better connectivity when it arrives later this month.

  • Chicobill

    Let's Give Sprint a chance. There network does not drop calls often. There are no surprise bills (like AT&T). They are hiring back there good RF Engineers. They do have good customer service reps - they turned that around. With Softbank money behind then and off loading Nextel they should be in good shape in 18 months. They are partnered with Samsung and Samsung is on the move, even coming with its own cell phone OS. Let's not forget - there pricing is cheaper and data is unlimited and not throttled.

  • B.Blaylock

    Hey who else offers unlimited, and no throttled data ? Once Sprint's network upgrade is complete and they get the coverage holes filled people will be flocking back. They have a new $65 unlimited plan. Add a hotspot plan on top of that and link your phone to your iPad via WiFi and you can do business. And Samsung is partnered with Sprint and dedicated to helping Sprint succeed. Sprint was the first to bring Samsung radio equipment to the states (in Puerto Rico) and so I expect they will turn it around and be a big player for a long time to come. I have been with Sprint service 12 years and while I have thought about changing I'm still content. Until they get their updates rolled out there will be hiccups but they are improving. When Network Vision and Spark are done I'll get a tablet and I will be set. The Nextel folly is behind them and with some SoftBank cash they look ready to go full speed ahead.

  • WilliamC

    What was that guy saying in that Sprint Spark video above? He's kidding right? They must have paid him to say all that bull!!!

  • Brandon

    Left yesterday for T-Mobile. $2 cheaper in the end but it includes phone insurance, unlimited data and texting while traveling internationally, and no throttling of LTE data ever, AND 2.5GB hotspot at LTE speed. With 48Mbps down and 19Mbps up, Sprint has alot of work to do and currently cannot beat that, even during off peak hours. That's if I even get a stable enough 4G connection through Sprint to download something. Spark will finally start to roll out as it becomes obsolete, I'm guessing 2016? Too little, too late. Sprint Customer Care could give a flip if you leave because they use the "if you're unhappy, you can pay your ETF and go." line, well T-Mobile did just that. Finally got out. Good luck to you all still on Sprint.

  • Sprint Spark Stinks!

    Hubby just got the Galaxy S5 with Spark (which by the way isn't even in our area yet!) Data shuts off automatically if you are on the phone, unless you can use a wifi signal. WTF, really. No surf and talk on spark?? REALLY??

    • Cory

      Who surfs and talks? Stupid stupid Americans.

  • dawhoda

    I haves s2 and only get 4 g half time and 3g rest wtf why?