Will Speed Boost Sprint, T-Mobile?

Coming out of the CTIA trade show yesterday -- we're here trying to meet with as many folks as we can in 48 hours -- was news that T-Mobile and especially Sprint would be boosting the speeds of their networks. T-Mobile said that it would upgrade its network, beyond 3G speeds (HPSA), in over 100 US cities by year end.

Sprint said that it would have WiMax in 120 US cities by year end. The company also debuted the first 3G/4G phone in the US, the HTC Android Evo. The handset itself wasn't on display at CTIA (or at least I couldn't find it) but it has received a glowing initial review from Engadget

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Most of the "4G" speeds offered by Sprint and its rivals won't be true 4G. They'll be more like 3.5G but still considerably faster than what exists today in the US.

Sprint may have as much as a year lead-time on AT&T and Verizon before LTE is fully deployed. This represents a window of opportunity for the carrier to add some new subscribers, with aggressive unlimited pricing, a stronger (much improved) network and a pretty sexy phone. I won't say this is a "last gasp" at growth for Sprint by any means. However if the opportunity is not seized and promoted correctly it will be lost and the existing market dynamics will be re-established once AT&T and Verizon roll out LTC. 

I don't believe that T-Mobile will gain many new customers with improved speeds; this is more of a defensive move. However the combination of an upgraded network with even more aggressive pricing could win the operator some converts.