Over the past 18-24 months, Sprint has been pushing the idea of a tri-band LTE network to ensure LTE coverage across its native coverage area in order to ensure LTE availability for as many of its customers as possible. With the ongoing Network Vision overhaul project hitting the midway point with the iDEN network shutdown and the closure of the SoftBank stake purchase with the inclusion of the completed Clearwire purchase, Sprint is now in the position necessary to roll out the first Tri-Band LTE devices on the market, all of them being mobile hotspots. The three bands being deployed by Sprint for the initiative are as follows with distinct advantages and disadvantages:
- 800MHz spectrum, being added to Sprint’s LTE network later this year excels at in-building coverage. This spectrum has been repurposed for LTE as Sprint ceased operations of the Nextel National Network on June 30th.
- Sprint’s 1.9GHz spectrum acts as the primary band in its 4G LTE nationwide build-out. Average performance falls in the range of 6-8Mbps, peaking at 25Mbps, for downlink and 2-3Mbps for uplink.
- 2.5GHz spectrum , which excels at broad-based, high-speed coverage, is expected to provide Sprint customers increased speeds and capacity in densely populated cities.
The initial device lineup consists of the first two NETGEAR branded mobile broadband devices being launched under the brand in the NETGEAR Zing Mobile Hotspot and 341U USB Modem, while stalwart Novatel Wireless will offer its latest MiFI iteration in the MiFi 500 LTE, all launching on Friday July 19th. The Zing Mobile Hotspot and 341U USB Modem will be offered for $99.99 before a $50 mail-in rebate via reward card, bringing the total to $49.99and the NETGEAR 341U USB Modem for $69.99 before a $50 mail-in rebate via reward card, bringing the total to $19.99. The MiFi 500 LTE will be offered for $99.99 before an additional $50 rebate via reward card, bringing the total to $49.99.
Notable features found in each respective device include such functionality as international GSM roaming on the Zing Mobile Hotspot, GPS over Wi-Fi on the MiFi LTE 500 and an LCD display on the 341U USB modem. Service plans for the new Tri-Band LTE devices also reflect Sprint’s move away from unlimited data for mobile broadband devices and are as follows:
$34.99/month 3GB of combined 3G/4G data. Zing Mobile Hotspot and 341U USB plans start at $49.99/month with 6GB of combined 3G/4G data or $79.99/month with 12GB of 3G/4G data.