New tower construction will be a big part of Sprint’s network investment over the next 15 months, and the carrier will also add equipment to its existing towers. Sprint plans to spend $3.5 billion–$4.0 billion on its network during fiscal 2017, which ends in March 2018, and expects to increase spending to between $5 billion and $6 billion in fiscal 2018. CFO Tarek Robbiati laid out specifics of the network investment plan at a UBS brokers conference this week. He said there are four key initiatives for Sprint.

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The four initiatives Robbiati outlined were:
1. Tri-banding towers. Robbiati said Sprint wants to deploy 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz, and 2.5 GHz on every tower it occupies.

2. New tower builds. Sprint plans to build several thousand new towers, focusing on neighborhoods where its coverage has fallen behind population growth, Robbiati said.

3. Massive MIMO. Massive multiple-input multiple-output antennas help carriers get more bang for the buck by delivering more data using their existing spectrum.Sprint has already announced plans to deploy massive MIMO antennas developed by Ericsson and Samsung.

4. Small cells. Sprint’s small cells range from outdoor mini-macro sites in the public right of way to indoor Magic Boxes. The carrier has been working on its outdoor small cell deployments for at least two years, but the Magic Box is a new network element added this year. In addition, Sprint just announced a partnership with Corning’s SpiderCloud Wireless, which will give the carrier two new indoor small cell solutions.

Also at this week’s UBS conference, Robbiati laid to rest speculation that the company’s plan to merge with T-Mobile might resurface. He said it’s time to move on, and joked about the months spent in due diligence with T-Mobile US.

“We were dancing. It was really exciting. We exchanged a kiss on the cheek. And then our parents saw that and sent us back to our rooms,” Robbiati said. “Jokes aside, look, it was – pretty much it boiled down [to]a core decision that Masa made.” Masayoshi Son, chairman of Sprint and of its parent company SoftBank, was unwilling to cede control of the company and was worried about regulatory challenges to the deal. Robbiati also acknowledged that in light of the Justice Department’s attempt to block AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner, Sprint may have “dodged a bullet” by abandoning the proposed T-Mobile merger.

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Image source: Jonathan Kramer

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