Sprint has announced plans to begin a 4G LTE rollout by the middle of 2012, with a complete upgrade by the end of 2013. The company hopes to cover 120 million people by the end of next year and more than 250 million when the rollout is complete a year later.

Sprint has been on the fence about LTE adoption for well over a year. The company owns a majority share in Clearwire, which they have been utilizing for WiMax technology, but have decided to build their own LTE network instead. That doesn’t mean that Sprint will abandon Clearwire, however, as they have a contract in place that runs through 2012.

An aggressive rollout will be needed so they don’t fall behind Verizon and AT&T in the network race and that is exactly what Sprint plans to do. Fifteen LTE devices will be available by the end of next year with the first launching as soon as midsummer. New devices include phones, tablets and data cards / mobile hotspots and modems, although no specific devices have been named.

We can also expect multi-mode CDMA / WiMax / LTE hotspots that would offer customers a wide range of connectivity options as Sprint’s Clearwire deal runs its course.

LTE support will be necessary for Sprint to remain competitive but many wonder how much money the company has left after acquiring an iPhone deal through Apple. Rumors earlier this week claimed that Sprint will have to cough up around $20 billion in order to carry the handset for the next four years.