Sprint unleashed a slew of network announcements this morning at a press conference in Chicago, and for the most part, it's just the news you'd expect: more LTE, more Spark, and more HD voice.
The 28 markets aren't listed individually, but Seattle, Cleveland, and San Jose all saw expansions, and Sprint brought its LTE coverage count to 471 cities today. The company plans to cover 250 million people with its LTE network by mid-year, up from 225 million now. Sprint Spark also added some cities, including St. Louis, Winston-Salem (NC), and Greensboro (NC). The company announced in relation to the Spark expansion that deployment of 8T8R radio equipment would soon begin to take advantage of that big hunk of 2.5GHz spectrum Sprint acquired from ClearWire.
Earlier today, we covered some interesting updates coming to Sprint's Galaxy Mega, Galaxy S4 Mini, and HTC One Max, all concerning LTE bands and "LTE UI Enhancements." These changes were of course related to Sprint's fledgling "Spark" tri-band LTE network which, according to Sprint, could potentially reach speeds of between 50 and 60 Mbps.
The network is only ready for a few cities (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Tampa), but if you own a compatible device you'll get to enjoy Sprint's LTE UI Enhancement anyway. What's the enhancement? A little spinning spark icon in your status bar.
We've received an official statement from Verizon on the ongoing Nexus 7 LTE / Verizon saga, a story that has gone silent in the months since Verizon promised the device was being certified for the network. Today, we've finally been given official word from Big Red on what the problem is, and let me say: you're not going to like it.
According to a Verizon spokesperson, during certification it was discovered that the Nexus 7 had a "systems issue" that presumably would have caused it to fail Verizon's testing. Asus and Google, instead of choosing to fix the issue, have opted to freeze the certification process until the Nexus 7's KitKat update rolls out, presumably in the coming weeks.
After a lonesome stint on the US Play Store (and various random retailers across the world) with only T-Mobile SIMs available, the LTE Nexus 7 is now available on the Play Store in nine countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, UK, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Here's a URL that should work to get to the product listing.
There was a time not long ago that you couldn't even get AT&T-compatible Straight Talk SIMs due to a mysterious shortage. Well, things have certainly turned around. Straight Talk has just started listing 4G LTE service for AT&T devices. You can break free from the traditional carriers, save some money, and still keep your LTE data. That's a deal.
Straight Talk offers monthly plans starting at $45 with "unlimited" data. Straight Talk will throttle heavy users after a few gigabytes of data, but the price isn't bad. AT&T's Aio national prepaid service is slightly more pricey. There is no additional charge for LTE data – the SIM cards should just work.
Two days ago, we reported on the rumored existence of a new Galaxy S4 iteration with LTE-Advanced support headed to Korea. It seems that device has been all but confirmed today, thanks to a leaked user manual with device specifications found by Japanese blog rbmen.
The device, known as model number SHV-E330, contains an MSM8974 CPU, which will be the first Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC to debut in handsets later this year.
Not only will that make this particular Galaxy S4 substantially quicker than its Snapdragon 600 sibling, the added support for LTE-Advanced will raise theoretical network performance figures substantially.
Sprint announced a major expansion of its still-nascent LTE network today, with three large markets headlining the Now Network's growing 4G footprint: Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Memphis. 18 other, smaller markets were also announced. Here's the full list.
Contra Costa County, Calif.
Mankato/North Mankato, Minn.
Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Newport News, Va.
Palm Bay, Fla.
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
West Palm Beach, Fla.
California, North Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee seem to be getting the most love in this announcement, with Contra Costa County and Los Angeles making up a rather large chunk of square mileage now blanketed in the warm embrace of four-gee.
Network Vision has been a fairly slow process for Sprint, but the carrier is flipping the LTE switch in nine new markets today.
La Crosse, Wis.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
This brings The Now Network's LTE footprint up to a whopping 67 markets, some one-point-seven gazillion short of Verizon, five-hundred-million behind that of AT&T, and negative sixty-six short of T-Mobile's LTE network count (on a good day). Note: those numbers are estimates, and may not be exact.
The company is still working on testing and implementing its high-speed network in other areas across the country, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Mobile data hotspots aren't the world's most exciting products, though if you travel consistently, they can be an absolute lifesaver. But let's be brutally honest: the average mobile data consumer really doesn't care about the hotspot itself - as long as it works. They care about the network, and the monthly pricing. That's really it.
The hotspot is basically just a tiny little Wi-Fi router with a cellular modem and a lithium-ion battery inside. If it functions properly, you only remember it exists when the battery dies. If it doesn't, it's the worst thing in the universe, and you actively contemplate just how many pieces it would shatter into after a fall from the 4th story window of Homewood Suites.
If you're a T-Mobile customer with an LTE-enabled phone (with Band 4 connectivity) in the Kansas City area, you may be able to pull down some four-gee goodness starting today. Over at XDA, one member has managed to establish an LTE connection with his unlocked AT&T Galaxy Note, which supports Band 4 LTE. Speed test results and connection info follow.
While the speed isn't particularly impressive right now, T-Mobile's LTE is likely in late pre-launch testing in this market, so the switch may not be fully flipped just yet. Kansas City was expected to be one of T-Mo's first LTE markets, after Las Vegas.