I was in the Indianapolis area today, and as I had checked the Sprint coverage page last night, saw that they had gone live with LTE. The funny thing about their data maps, unlike their voice maps, is that they don't show relative signal strength. It's all covered in orange, when in reality, it might not be covered at all.
My current home coverage is like that. It' shows up as a blanket of 3G goodness when, in fact, I often get unusable service. The voice coverage shows me on the edge of great voice signal strength.
I took my mobile hotspot (Sierra Wireless Tri-Fi, as they call it), into the pizza place where I went to eat lunch, along with my laptop computer. It connected slowly, then disconnected, then connected again. As I was trying to actually use the connection, the hotspot disconnected from the computer. C-R-A-P. This is the second device, as the first one was confused about whether it was fully charged or not, and disconnected regularly.
My guess is that the disconnections happen when the towers are overloaded. Despite their assurances, I think their capacity upgrades only minimized the horror and they needed 6 or 7 more to put things back to where they were before they started selling Apple's iPhone. They've been selling smart phones like crazy. Apparently, nearly half of people in the U.S.A. are using smart phones. I saw almost great speeds on Christmas Day, so it makes sense.
There was a handy Sprint store around the corner, so I stopped to talk. I casually asked why it wouldn't connect to LTE and the representative told me that the towers were only about 30 % of the buildout. That seems consistent with Verizon and AT&T boasting LTE coverage when there wasn't much. Sad, isn't it? Still, some is better than none, as long as it works.
After I'd finished my regular shopping, I headed to Sam's Club for gasoline and to see if there was anything else I desperately needed. $3.079 wasn't bad for regular, since I'd seen up to $3.219 on the way there.
I tried the mobile hotspot again, and it showed the 4G symbol. Since I knew Indianapolis didn't have WiMAX, I was quite pleased to be connected to LTE for the first time with the device. I'll upload the screenshot but the PING came back as 70 ms, with a download speed of 4.65 Mbps, and an upload speed of 3.81 Mbps. Considering the technology, it's slow, but if I'd checked my 3G connection, the LTE speed would look wonderful. I'm hoping to see much better. I tried Verizon's LTE in West Carrollton, Ohio and the download speed at that time was ~5.8 Mbps but it was a more mature buildout by that time. I considered it too slow for the money Verizon charged, and considering that I had minimal coverage in my own town at the time, it didn't make sense. Since then, they added LTE but it's only good if you happen to be where it works.
Now, I'm thinking that Sprint may try to compete with Verizon since the two have this town sewn up. T-Mobile doesn't even have 3G service here and there is no MetroPCS or Cricket. AT&T has 3G service but that could collapse at any moment once their customers upgrade to 3G data phones. It's not likely they'll have LTE here until the end of the century. I don't even think that they had EDGE here until 2006 or 2007.
If nothing else, the pizza and breadsticks were good.
Update 2013.11.11: It's going on 10 months since I wrote this. I see Sprint covering more of the state of Indiana, but service in Indianapolis is anything but exemplary. Downtown, near where they showcased LTE for the SuperBowl, I've seen service as low as 0.75 Mbps and the other day, it was running at 1.0 Mbps down. I also got 2.88 Mbps in the suburbs where the buildout didn't seem to be finished. However, service in the mall was better near the Sprint kiosk, and often dropped to 1xRTT elsewhere.
I'm on my third hotspot now, and this one doesn't seem to be better. Why doesn't the equipment for their towers work well?
I'm interested to see how Verizon is doing. About a year ago, I went to visit someone in a small town to deliver a few things. She was showing me her Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III and I noticed that LTE was lit. She tried to look up something and it paused for over 1 minute, switched to 3G/EVDO, and returned results finally. So much for more coverage. Putting LTE on one tower just doesn't do more than stake a claim. It has to work.
Oh, and I just had pizza and breadsticks there again the other day.