This week, Sprint (NYSE:S) made headlines when it announced that it would bring back a marketing campaign that cuts wireless customers' bills in half if they switch to Sprint. The notable change this time around is that Sprint is now offering he deal to T-Mobile subscribers as well as those from Verizon and AT&T. (NYSE:T)
While Sprint needs new offers like this to woo subscribers to its network, the carrier will only be able to keep those customers around for the long haul if it can successfully roll out the new LTE technologies that make its network more competitive.
What is LTE Plus
Just before Sprint launched its new campaign to battle its competitors, the company announced that its rebranding its former triband Spark network with the name LTE Plus. Regardless of the new name, this network is Sprint's version of LTE Advanced, which uses several new technologies to improve connection speeds and capacity.
One of these technologies is called carrier aggregation, which melds multiple bands of spectrum together to make network speeds faster. According to Sprint, peak speeds in some of its LTE Plus markets can reach up 100 Mbps.
Another LTE-Advanced tech Sprint is using is called beamforming, which uses multiple wireless antennas to send a signal directly to an area where Sprint customers are located, instead of spreading out the signal across a wide area. In a press release, Sprint's Chief Technology Officer, Dr. John Saw, explained: "Simply stated, while our competitors are sending LTE data meant for a specific customer to everyone in a sector, we are able to transmit more directive beams to exactly where our customers are located."
Right now, Sprint's LTE Plus network only covers 77 major markets like New York City, Miami, San Francisco, and others. But the carrier plans to expand it into more areas in the future.
Why this matters for Sprint
Sprint knows all too well that network quality is key to holding onto customers. The carrier suffered staggering customer losses during its wobbly transition from 3G to 4G LTE, when service quality declined as the new network was being built. Sprint is only now starting to recover from those losses, and posted its first positive net subscriber additions in over two years in the third quarter of 2015.
According to the latest data from RootMetrics, Sprint now holds the No. 3 spot for overall network quality. But T-Mobile isn't far behind, and continues to build out its own network in an effort to usurp Sprint's place.
T-Mobile recently overtook Sprint as the nation's third-largest wireless carrier by subscriber numbers; Sprint is hoping its LTE Plus upgrades will help keep it ahead of T-Mobile's expansion.
What Sprint needs next
The carrier has yet to lay out a clear public plan about when and where it will expand LTE Plus next. In this case, the carrier needs to follow in the footsteps of T-Mobile, which set lofty goals for its 4G LTE rollout and continually met them. Sprint may be able to convince some subscribers to switch to its network by cutting their bills by half, but those customers will only stick around if they believe that their network is good, and getting better.
Most of the news surrounding Sprint has been pretty negative lately, but it should be noted that the company is taking drastic steps to turn things around. Unfortunately, that means the company will make job cuts. But its focus on LTE-Advanced technologies and strong promotions to bring in new customers (even its latest move is a revamped version of an old deal) are big steps in the right direction. The key for Sprint now will be to keep the upgrades and promotions coming in order to build momentum, and to show subscribers that its network is worth joining for the long haul.
Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Verizon Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.