Sprint launches 11 new LTE markets; maintains small-city focus

When Sprint finally does launch LTE in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C., customers in those cities won’t be complaining about lack of regional coverage. Sprint(s s) is keeping with its strategy of launching 4G in small cities, towns and bedroom communities while saving its big metro markets for the end of the year.

Sprint continued its steady rollout of LTE mobile broadband service in 11 new markets on Monday, turning on networks in:

  • Anderson, Ind.
  • Clarke County, Va./Jefferson County, W.Va.
  • Harrisburg/Carlisle/Hershey, Pa.
  • Hagerstown, Md./Martinsburg, W.Va.
  • Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Muncie, Ind.
  • Peabody, Mass.
  • Salina, Kan.
  • Shenandoah County, Va.
  • South Bend/Mishawaka, Ind.
  • Winchester, Va.

Combined with a batch of rollouts last month, Sprint is now in more than 50 markets, but its footprint only includes six large cities: Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City and San Antonio. There appears, however, to be some method to Sprint’s madness. Nearly all of these small markets are within a few hours drive of a major city Sprint plans to expand its LTE footprint later this year. Sprint has promised coverage of 115 markets in the next few months, but at least a handful of them will be major cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York.

Meanwhile, Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) and AT&T(s t) are wrapping up their 2012 rollout plans. AT&T has already surpassed its year-end goal of bringing LTE to 100 markets, turning up its 103rd network earlier this month. Its LTE footprint now covers 150 million people, a number it plans to double by the end of 2014.

Verizon’s network now spans 417 markets, covering roughly four-fifths of the US population. For all practical purposes Verizon’s metro footprint is complete. It’s now in the process of filling in small towns and rural areas so its 4G network matches up with its 3G coverage.