Sprint launches LTE in Chicago burbs, but not in Chicago

Sprint’s(s s) rather strange rollout of its new LTE network continues. On Monday, it announced the new 4G network would be available in several of Chicago’s suburbs but not in the city limits of Chicago itself. Sprint also launched the mobile broadband service in New Bedford and Fall River, Mass.; McPherson and Hutchinson, Kan.; and Wichita Falls, Texas.

While most carriers start their new network rollouts in the big cities and then expand outwards, Sprint has launched its LTE network in far more small markets than it has in big metro areas. In fact, Sprint has only gone live in six major cities: Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio in Texas and Kansas City, Atlanta and Baltimore. The rest of its two dozen or so launches have all been in small cities or suburbs.

A lot of activity is going on in the background though. Sprint has said it will have LTE live in 115 markets in the coming months – and not just in small towns and bedroom communities. Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C. are all on the list.

What we’re likely seeing in Chicago is the first stage of a more aggressive metropolitan area rollout. While many of these outlying suburban communities can be covered with a handful of cellsites, building a dense network in downtown Chicago requires a lot more work. Instead of waiting until every tower is ready to launch, Sprint is probably just turning up individual markets as soon as they’re ready – regardless of their size.

It will be interesting to see if much of Chicago proper’s network isn’t already live. So if you have a Sprint LTE phone or modem and live within the confines of the Windy City, we’d love to hear if you’re seeing any 4G signals. Let us know in the comments below.