Sprint said today in a press release that it’s Next-Gen Network build is well underway as we invest billions to give Sprint customers an even stronger 4G – LTE Advanced network (true 4G) and launch mobile 5G (fake-non standard) in the first half of next year. CTO John Saw wrote:
The Sprint Next-Gen Network build stems from our largest investment in years, and we’re unleashing our spectrum assets to improve coverage, reliability and speed nationwide as we work to launch mobile 5G in the first half of 2019.
Massive MIMO is our award-winning strategy for 5G. This game-changing technology is capable of delivering up to 10 times the capacity of current LTE systems, significantly increasing data speeds for more customers in high-traffic locations. And because Sprint has so much 2.5 GHz spectrum, we can use Massive MIMO to deliver 4G LTE and 5G on the same radio simultaneously.
In our first quarter of FY18 we continued field testing and optimizing Massive MIMO radios in locations such as Dallas, Los Angeles and New York City. Some sites are now running commercial traffic and the initial performance results are very promising. Today we’re seeing a more than 4X increase in speed on these sites, as well as increased coverage and cell edge performance.
When it comes to 5G, the network is only part of the equation. This is why we’re excited to keep making progress on our first 5G smartphone and Always Connected PC. In the first half of 2019 we plan to launch mobile 5G in nine markets initially – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. And we expect Sprint customers will be among the first in the world to have access to a beautifully designed 5G phone.
It’s an exciting time to be in wireless with LTE networks rapidly advancing and 5G on the near horizon. You’ll see us accelerate our build activity in the months ahead. More triband upgrades, more innovative small cells, and more game-changing Massive MIMO powering a Network Built for Unlimited.
These technologies and more all play a pivotal role in improving the network experience for our customers under any scenario. If Sprint proceeds as a standalone company, our investment helps us continue improving our 4G LTE Advanced network, and launch mobile 5G in the first half of next year. If the merger with T-Mobile is approved, our investment helps the combined company rapidly create the best nationwide mobile 5G network, fueling a wave of innovation and disruption throughout the marketplace.
In March 2018, Saw told RCR Wireless: “Massive MIMO is our secret weapon to getting 5G built simultaneously with 4G. You need two enabling things. One is massive MIMO. I was just in a meeting with [Ericsson] to see if they can do more faster. The second thing is spectrum.” Sprint is tapping its 2.5 GHz spectrum to support the massive MIMO build. That theme was echoed last week during Sprint’s fiscal first quarter 2018 earnings call.
“We now have a few massive MIMO sites on air,” Sprint’s new CEO, Michel Combes, said Wednesday, adding that the 2.4GHz massive input, massive output (massive MIMO) arrays are “5G-ready” with a software upgrade for the mobile 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) New Radio specification. “We expect to provide mobile services and devices in the first half of 2019,” Combes said. (See Sprint Reveals 3 More 5G Cities, Promises ‘Cool’ 5G Phone & Small Cell and Intel Promises 5G Laptops With Sprint in 2019). Specifically, Combes said on the earnings call:
We are deploying innovative 5G technologies such as Massive MIMO as we prepare to launch the first 5G mobile network in the first half of 2019. Massive MIMO radios are software upgradable to 5G NR allowing us to fully utilize our spectrum for both LTE and 5G simultaneously while we enhance capacity even further with 5G and begin to support new 5G use cases. We now have a few Massive MIMO sites commercially on air in a few markets and are seeing very promising results, including speed improvements of over 300% while also increasing coverage and cell edge performance.
Sprint’s priority is mobile 5G and we expect to provide commercial services and devices by the first half 2019. Most importantly, as we look ahead, it’s clear that our proposed merger with T-Mobile will deliver an acceleration of an even greater 5G network with the breadth and depth that we could not do on our own.
Sprint has previously said that massive MIMO will be deployed in its initial 5G cities first. Sprint has so far named Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Kansas City; Los Angeles; New York City; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C., as its first 5G markets.
Massive MIMO will enable Sprint to run both LTE and 5G on its 2.5GHz band, CTO John Saw noted on the call. It is taking advantage of its higher-band spectrum to deploy 64 transmitters and 64 receivers (64T64R) in an array. It has already shown over 600-Mbit/s downloads on LTE over MIMO in New Orleans. (See Gigabit LTE: Sprint’s MIMO Gras in New Orleans).
Separately, Sprint now seems more open to using millimeter wave if it can buy licenses at auction in November. “It’s an excellent opportunity to supplement our 2.5GHz portfolio for our 5G deployment,” Combes said.
CTO Saw has said that LTE speeds in its initial 5G markets are seeing a four-times increase in download speeds, although CEO Combes noted on the earnings call that Sprint can build a better 5G network if its merger with T-Mobile is approved. (See Getting Real About Mobile 5G Speeds). New Sprint CFO Andrew Davies noted that capital expenditure for the quarter was “relatively flat” year-on-year, at $1.1 billion. Network spending will ramp up with the 5G build this year, to $5 billion or $6 billion.