Sprint may launch nationwide LTE 4G network by 2013

Sprint LogoA Sprint executive has revealed that the company is considering launching its own LTE 4G network nationwide, reports Fierce Wireless, which would push its current Clearwire-run WiMax network to the sidelines. If it chooses to embark on such an endeavor, the network upgrade could go live this year, and be available across the country by as soon as 2013.

The news comes via Sprint’s president of network operations, Steve Elfman, who delivered the news to the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference on Wednesday. Elfman said that while the company won’t decide whether or not to adopt LTE until the middle of this year, it could have LTE-compatible devices available to customers by 2012.

Adoption of an LTE 4G network would be a significant shift for Sprint, which has so far put its weight behind WiMax 4G technology. (For more about the difference between 4G technologies, check out our “ultimate guide” to 4G here.) The delay in Sprint’s decision-making is due to negotiations with its partner, Clearwire, which operates Sprint’s WiMax network on the 2.5 GHz spectrum. According to Elfman, Sprint and Clearwire are currently “in the middle of some positive negotiations,” which probably means they aren’t going so well.

As we’ve mentioned before, if Sprint decides to develop its own LTE network, it’s likely that the company will have to offer tri-band phones that work with both WiMax and LTE networks.

In addition to deploying an LTE network, Elfman gave more details about Sprint’s “Network Vision,” a $4 billion to $5 billion “network modernization” project that the company is planning to roll out over the next three to five years. Network Vision includes phasing out Sprint’s iDEN network, starting in 2013, in favor of CDMA for push-to-talk handsets. In addition, Sprint’s 800MHz CDMA band will receive and upgrade to improve in-building reception.

Having Sprint on-board with LTE would mean the top four US wireless carriers would have LTE in their futures. Verizon Wireless has already launched its LTE network, and recently announced more than 10 devices that will be compatible on its 4G network. AT&T has said it plans an LTE 4G roll-out later this year. And T-Mobile says it plans to launch its own LTE 4G connection in 2013.