Sprint announced today that it has enabled its LTE Plus service in New York City, making it one of the last major metropolitan areas to get access to the service. Initially launched in 77 markets last November, LTE Plus is Sprint's version of LTE Advanced, and is now available in 191 markets across the US. Sprint says that the new service can reach real-world download speeds of up to 100Mbps thanks to its beamforming and two-channel carrier aggregation technology. The New York City deployment largely completes Sprint's rollout to major US cities, as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Miami, and Los Angeles already have the service.
Today's announcement is just one in a long list of network improvements that Sprint has been working on for the past two years. Sprint's spectrum holdings, which include low-band 800MHz spectrum, mid-band 1900MHz, and lots of high-band 2.5GHz spectrum, put it in a unique position to take advantage of new technologies such as carrier aggregation and beamforming. The company says that it will be able to leverage this position to its advantage when 5G networks begin their rollouts around the year 2020.
Most Sprint customers with recent devices will see improvements right away
If you're a Sprint customer, you won't have to wait four years to see faster speeds, however, as 16 devices sold by the carrier right now already support the two-channel carrier aggregation Sprint has deployed. That list includes the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus; HTC A9 and M9; LG G5, G4, and G Flex 2; Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, Note 5, Note Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Tab S2; as well as Sprint's Pocket Wi-Fi mobile hotspot. Sprint says that the Galaxy S7 also supports three-channel aggregation, which has shown to provide speeds of more than 300Mbps in lab tests. That will be rolled out to the network later this year.
Sprint has long been an underdog in the US wireless market, and it has developed a bad reputation for a poor performing network. The carrier says a lot of that has turned around in the past couple of years, and independent testing appears to confirm that. Still, the company has a long way to go: anecdotal testing I did of the new LTE Plus network with an iPad Pro and Nexus 6P showed it capable of very fast, nearly 100Mbps speeds in midtown Manhattan, but then sub-1Mbps speeds just a few blocks away.
The LTE Fast rollout in New York City includes the five boroughs, as well as surrounding towns and communities in the tristate area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Sprint says it will deploy more new network enhancements, such as service in all underground subway stations in New York, in the near future.