Here's a bit of a bombshell for Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) watchers. The company announced it will deploy LTE-Advanced wireless broadband technology by the first half of 2013. Sprint must have been saving this announcement for a time when it could have the most effect. Indeed, this news was tossed out by Iyad Tarazi, Sprint's vice president of network development and engineering, at a breakfast meeting for those attending the 4G World conference in Chicago.

But it was just earlier this month that Sprint announced it would be aggressive in rolling out its plain-old LTE network, that the first markets would become active by the middle of 2012, and that its LTE infrastructure would be completed by 2013. It said nothing at all about building an LTE-Advanced network.

What's happened between Oct. 7 and Oct. 24 that has given Sprint the ability to leapfrog over Verizon's (NYS: VZ) and AT&T's (NYS: T) LTE networks? Isn't Sprint the company that got itself caught between Clearwire's (NAS: CLWR) slower WiMAX 4G technology and the controversial (and so far nonexistent) LTE network of LightSquared?

For the curious, the potential speed differences offered by the 4G technologies of LTE and LTE-Advanced are significant. LTE promises maximum downlink speeds of 100 Mbps and uplink speeds of 50 Mbps. LTE-Advanced promises max downlink speeds of 1 Gbs and max uplink speeds of 500 Mbps. LTE-Advanced is so advanced that it was only this summer that Ericsson (NAS: ERIC) was able to demonstrate that it could even work in a mobile environment.

Sprint certainly has gotten the short end of the stick lately. After watching AT&T throw its bigfoot $39 billion at Deutsche Telekom to acquire its T-Mobile USA division -- which would have the potential to really throw a wrench in Sprint's works -- Sprint just seems to keep stepping in it.

So is this announcement for real, or is it just a ploy to inject some optimism into Sprint's downtrodden investors? Has Sprint had this high-tech rabbit in its hat the whole time, or is it a Hail Mary pass hoping to catch its competitors off guard? Tell me what you think in the comments section below.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Dan Radovsky owns shares of AT&T. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of AT&T. 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.

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