Sprint Looks to Light a 'Spark' Under Verizon, AT&T

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Sprint seems to be getting its "Spark" back.

The company, which "doesn't want to be an also-ran in the mobile network speed wars any longer," said Yankee Group's Ken Rehbehn, this week debuted a new LTE service that runs on three spectrum bands.

The service, dubbed "Spark," eventually will deliver data speeds up to 1Gbps. In the five markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and Tampa) where the provider initially is launching service, peak speeds will reach 50Mbps-60Mbps. Over the next three years, Sprint expects to offer Spark in 100 cities.

And look for Sprint to roll out new phones that accommodate the tri-band design. Sprint owns spectrum of its own as well as some acquired from Nextel and Clearwire, and it's worked with Samsung, LG and HTC to create compatible devices. To that point, Sprint on Nov. 8 will introduce the Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy Mega and LG G2, all developed to run on Spark. The HTC One Max is forthcoming.

The news "is one of the most important U.S. operator events of 2013," said Rehbehn, principal analyst for Yankee Group. "[I]f Sprint and its suppliers make this work, the result should be a compelling multi-layered spectrum cake that entices end users."

Rehbehn further noted that Spark delivers on the "broader SoftBank vision." For years, Sprint has trailed its U.S. rivals in mobile speeds and subscriber numbers. But with the recent $22 billion SoftBank deal, Sprint is hoping to reverse its fortunes.

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