Sprint CTO highlights investments in small cells, massive MIMO and more

Sprint CTO John Saw, in a recent blog post, described 2018 as a “banner year” for the carrier, which is moving toward a merger with T-Mobile US pending further regulatory reviews, but still executing on its own network improvement plan. Sprint invested around $5 billion in its network this year.

“We’re ending this year with our biggest LTE data coverage footprint, LTE Advanced nationwide which is up to 2X faster than before on capable devices, and gigabit class LTE performance in more than 270 cities,” Saw wrote. “We continue to deploy our innovative and traditional technology to take advantage of our spectrum holdings as we invest in our network and prepare for the launch of 5G.”

Saw broke out some of the major network improvements undertaken in 2018:

  • “Tens of thousands of macro site upgrades” enabling support for Sprint’s 800 MHz, PCS and 2.5 GHz spectrum, with 2.5 GHz supported at more than 70% of sites.
  • More than 25,000 small cells in the field and 275,000 Magic Boxes being used by consumer and business customers.
  • “Hundreds of massive MIMO radios deployed, boosting speed and capacity in high-traffic areas with LTE Advanced service today and ready for 5G next year.”

To the 5G piece, Sprint plans to launch next year in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. The carrier has already announced plans for compatible handsets from LG and Samsung, and a hot spot from HTC.

Speaking earlier this month at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Leveraged Finance Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, Sprint CFO Andrew Davies discussed how current network investments are approached given the pending merger with T-Mobile US.

“All of these things are going to be foundational for the merged company assuming we get the merger approved,” he said. “We don’t see much risk the capital we’re deploying this year is going to end up being stranded. The merged company will need that 2.5 GHz spectrum fully deployed. It’s going to need massive MIMO. And it’s going to need the densification of small cells.”

The two carriers have discussed a $10 billion, three-year network integration plan. Davies explained a good portion of that figure is related to paying off long-term cell site leases.

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