Sprint turns on 4G service in Los Angeles, Miami and Washington
Sprint Nextel flipped the switch on its next-generation 4G mobile service in Los Angeles and a group of other large cities today, keeping up the momentum on its claim to the nation's first widely available 4G network.
With the addition of L.A., Miami, Washington and several others, Sprint's 4G rollout is up to 68 cities. Sprints 4G network, based on a technology called WiMax, enables consumers to download data to their smart phones much more quickly, so functions like streaming video, music and Web browsing don't proceed at pokey last-decade speeds.
Sprint, the third-largest carrier behind AT&T and Verizon, has positioned itself as the first to make 4G technology available. But as The Times discussed last month, the rise of 4G wireless systems -- or mobile service with broadband speeds -- comes with many caveats.
Among them is that all of the major carriers are promoting their latest networks as 4G, but that technically speaking none of them qualifies for that standard. The true 4G would allow for speeds close to 100 megabits per second (as opposed to less than 1 megabit per second that most 3G users get today). Sprint's 4G network is only about 3 to 6 megabits per second on average.
Moreover, the newer networks are still being built, meaning many users will find they work or live in an area not yet covered by the higher speeds. Sprint urges prospective buyers to check coverage maps before they buy.
All that said, anyone trying the new 4G phones will find a marked difference in the speed they provide -- older-generation smart phones don't look nearly as smart in comparison.
-- David Sarno
Photo: Sprint's HTC EVO 4G is one of the first 4G smart phones and allows live, two-way video chat.
Credit: Gina Ferrazi / Los Angeles Times