Carrier Sprint today announced a fifteen-year deal with LightSquared enabling them to offer 4G LTE services on their network. As you know, Sprint currently offers wireless broadband marketed as 4G through its majority stake in Clearwire, utilizing their WiMax technology. Sprint couldn’t have signed a better deal to joing the 4G LTE craze. LightSquared will actually pay the carrier $9 billion in cash over the course of eleven years to deploy an LTE network, spending itself $13 billion over the next eight years on boosting their network capacity. In return, the company will be allowed to sell their 4G service to Sprint customers. Sprint can tap up to 50 percent of LightSquared’s 4G capacity and a roaming agreement will be in place by 2012.

On the downside, LightSquared plans on launching its first 4G market in 2012 and finish commercial deployment by 2015. Compared this to AT&T and Verizon Wireless which already operate 4G LTE service in select markets and plan to commercially deploy their networks by the end of next year. However, Sprint is the nation’s third-largest carrier with 51 million customers as of June and they have been rumored to have been testing a Sprint iPhone for some time, with Apple seeking a carrier engineer in the Kansas City area, where Sprint is headquartered.

It remains unclear, however, whether that purported device is meant for Sprint’s CDMA 3G network or if Apple in fact is giving some carriers access to a prototype 4G LTE iPhone which could run on any compatible network, saving Apple from troubles of having to engineer, support and update several hardware version of the phone. Also, Verizon iPhone hurt Sprint sales, prompting analysts to call for a Christmas Sprint iPhone launch.

Cross-posted on 9to5Google.com

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