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Sprint says 4G LTE devices coming in second half of next year

That's well behind competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which are already expanding their 4G LTE product offerings. Sprint also says iPhone sales continue to exceed expectations.

Sprint Nextel is going to be a little late to the game when it comes to 4G LTE devices.

Sprint Chief Financial Officer Joseph Euteneuer today said he expects the first 4G LTE devices to hit the market in the back half of the year, keeping both the third and fourth quarters open as possibilities. That's a slightly more conservative target than the company's goal of getting 4G LTE products out by midsummer, issued during an investor presentation in October.

A Sprint representative said Eutenuer's comments don't suggest a change in the LTE timeline.

Sprint will be at a disadvantage when it rolls out its 4G LTE products. Verizon Wireless already has 16 in the market, with four on the way by year's end. AT&T just launched its third, the LG Nitro HD, and has plans to accelerate its product rollout next year. While Sprint still sells 4G WiMax products, they run on an older technology, and don't work with LTE devices.

Sprint has said it expects 15 4G LTE devices to hit the market next year.

Still, the company has a lot of hopes on LTE driving growth for the company. Euteneuer, speaking at a UBS investor conference that was Webcast, announced that the company put into operation its first multi-mode radio, which is able to run 4G LTE and 3G CDMA, signaling progress in its network upgrade.

Sprint plans to cover 120 million people by the end of 2012, and 250 million people by 2013.

"We accelerated this because we believe LTE is the key to our future," Euteneuer said. "We want to get this done sooner than later."

Euteneuer added the company would deploy 4G LTE devices to select markets where the network is available.

He also suggested that Sprint would do more with unlimited plans down the line, because it is paying Clearwire for data on a flat-rate basis through 2013. But that data would go through the 4G WiMax network, and not the planned LTE one.

On the iPhone, Euteneuer said that sales have been better than expectations. More importantly, the company has added more new customers than it had expected.

"Clearly, it's been doing very well for us," he said. "The pleasant surprise has been the uptick on new customers."