Sprint announced today that its 4G LTE service is now available in the Chicago metro area, Indianapolis, Ind., and five other markets in California, Puerto Rico, and Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, the carrier revealed that LTE was already available in the suburban communities surrounding the Chicago metro area.

Of the three major networks in the US that have launched LTE (AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint), Sprint is far behind its competitors in terms of actual coverage. Sprint says that it now covers a total of 49 markets, which is a fraction of the 400-plus covered by Verizon's LTE network, and is far behind AT&T's still-growing LTE map. The one thing that Sprint does offer, and the other carriers don't, is an unlimited data plan for its LTE service. Sprint may be well behind the others in rolling out its LTE network, but according to CEO Dan Hesse, the carrier's plan is to "do the right thing" and offer services that it feels are valuable to its customers. With its new Japanese owners and plans to acquire Clearwire, Sprint may have enough firepower to go toe to toe with the Verizon and AT&T duopoly in the next couple of years.