Speaking at a Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom conference Wednesday, Steve Elfman, Sprint’s president of network operations and wholesale, said that the company will not make a decision regarding LTE deployment until mid-year. He added that if Sprint does decide to deploy LTE it could turn it on quickly and have LTE devices by 2012. Elfman added that the reason the company will not make a decision until mid-year is because Sprint wants to establish and announce a strategy that is still being determined by the company and its partner Clearwire, which runs a mobile WiMAX network.
Leaks have suggested this all ends with Clearwire closing their retail arm and becoming a wholesale operator, and Sprint acting as the retail arm of the relationship. The companies have previously stated that only about 20% of the hardware in the field for their current Mobile WiMax service would need to be swapped out to support LTE, which is what’s propping up Sprint’s belief they can have nationwide LTE by the end of 2013. That optimistic projection would put them right on pace with Verizon’s LTE upgrades, which are also expected to be completed by the end of 2013.