Much like an incident that occurred last fall in San Jose for another TalkAndroid writer, Ed Caggiani, I happened to be travelling in a part of Durham I don’t normally visit when I came across some Sprint 4G LTE coverage. After grabbing some grub in a convenience store, I went to check my email while in the parking lot when I noticed the 4G indicator was lit up on my Galaxy Note II. Hit the break to read more about what it was like to have 4G LTE for a few minutes.
Life always seems to be about compromises and Sprint customers are well aware of that. They get nice unlimited data plans, but the Sprint 4G LTE network is definitely not on par with the other major carriers. At one time Sprint may have been ahead of the curve with their 4G WiMAX network only to find themselves on the wrong side of the fence as 4G technologies shook out and LTE emerged as the preferred platform. I can understand why having owned an HTC EVO 4G. When connected, the service was nice but tended to be hard to find and prone to dropping in and out if the signal was the least bit weak.
While Sprint plays catch-up in deploying a nationwide 4G LTE network, users eager for the service may find themselves searching for any little hint or sign that it is coming to their area soon. When I visited the Sprint store at the end of December to grab my new Note II, the sales guy mentioned to me that he thought 4G was coming to the area in February or March. I’m not one to think the sales associate in a local Sprint store has access to Sprint’s project timelines for 4G coverage, but I still couldn’t help thinking silently to myself, “Yes!” Through my other job, I also know Sprint is overhauling the infrastructure in the area, including getting rid of the Nextel assets, as we have been dealing with problems from that project.
This latest incident is another example that keeps me hopeful that it will not be too long before I have 4G LTE service available and can really take advantage of my smartphone hardware. According to Sprint’s web site, the central area of North Carolina isn’t even an available option in their dropdown list to check for when coverage may be coming, which I always thought odd given all the tech companies in the Raleigh-Durham area. Sprint has also posted on their community pages this disclaimer:
“We’re working on expanding the LTE coverage, but during the build out stages customers may pick up LTE signals, but it may not be reliable at times because it is still under the beta testing stages. However; customers are welcome to use it during this time.”
Clearly Sprint is working on upgrades in the area and I happened to find a spot with some access. After noting the 4G icon, I quickly launched the SpeedTest.net app to check out the speed. As you can see in the results, about 8.5 Mb/s down and 1.5 Mb/s up is not going to win any speed competitions from what I have seen. Nevertheless, it is still way superior to the 3G coverage I normally deal with in the area. I then fired up some apps like Google+, Facebook and Tweetings to see what the experience was like. My impression was one of being on a WiFi network. Everything loaded so fast. Part of that is likely due to the much decreased latency. When I’ve tested my 3G connection, I find latency to be in the 800+ ms range. On 4G, latency was sub-100 ms. I also felt like it was faster than the old WiMAX 4G service, though part of that difference could be the capabilities of the devices as well.
Having drunk a sip from the well, my thirst for 4G LTE is even more intense. For those readers waiting for 4G LTE coverage, whether on Sprint or some other carrier, I think you will be pleased when you finally get it.
If you have spotted some 4G LTE coverage where it is not officially available yet, let us know and share your story.