Sprint will have three smartphones on sale November 8 that can support all three of the its 4G LTE frequencies, with a fourth smartphone coming soon. The company is calling its technology Sprint Spark, and it’s the solution for Sprint’s relatively disjointed LTE implementation. All Spark phones will be able to seamlessly move among the 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz frequency bands dynamically as needed based on activity and if coverage allows.
To get Spark moving, Sprint will sell the $199 Samsung Galaxy Mega, $99 Samsung Galaxy S 4 mini and $199 LG G2 next week (those prices are with-contract — each can be had in lieu of a monthly fee through the Sprint One Up program as well). Right out of the gate, the two Samsung phones will have tri-band support soon after launch with a software update. The LG G2 will get its tri-band functionality in early 2014. And Sprint says the HTC One Max will also be part of Spark and is “coming soon.”
Spark is an effective way for Sprint to manage speeds on its LTE networks. When Spark-compatible phones are sipping data for Twitter or email retrieval, they can use one of Sprint’s lower-bandwidth LTE networks. But if a customer fires up Netflix and needs faster LTE speeds, the handset can tap into a its forthcoming high-capacity 2500 MHz network for more throughput.
Why does Sprint need to do this at all? Because it backed WiMAX as a next-generation technology while its peers decided to wait on LTE. As a result of that and spectrum auctions, AT&T and Verizon got the lion’s share of the lower frequency “beachfront” spectrum for their respective LTE networks.
T-Mobile has had to refarm existing spectrum for its LTE implementation and Sprint is doing the same. But by doing so and being late to the LTE game, the operator has three LTE frequencies to manage, which requires a solution such as Spark. I’m be curious to see how well the technology fares, as the higher frequencies won’t work as well indoors when compared to the 800 MHz band. The 2.5 GHz network launched in five cities today, and once it goes national Sprint will have a solid LTE offering thanks to Spark and the spectrum Sprint picked up from Clearwire.