Leap Wireless International, the parent of Cricket Communications, plans to triple its planned LTE coverage from 20-25 million to 60-65million POPs by 2014, according to Leap CEO Doug Hutcheson, speaking at the 40th Annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference last week in Boston.
In March, Cricket signed a five-year wholesale agreement to use Clearwire’s proposed LTE network. Previously, it had a wholesale agreement with the now-bankrupt Lightsquared. Late last year, the carrier began its multi-year transition to 4G LTE with a commercial market launch in its Tucson, Ariz.
The carrier has not divulged its LTE vendors, however. Leap spokesman Greg Lund told the AGL Bulletin the company has not been in any hurry to deploy LTE, choosing instead to wait until handset and infrastructure costs come down.
“We felt the significant device costs that were presented to us would come down in line with what our customers [could afford] in the back half of this year,” Lund said. “That is why we took a more measured approach to device and infrastructure sourcing.”
Clearwire has said it will announce its LTE vendors in the third quarter of this this year and plans to deploy 5,000 TD-LTE base stations by June 2013, increasing to 8,000 thereafter. Leap will probably announce its vendors for LTE in the second half of this year, Lund said.
“Carriers are busy adding coverage and capacity – good for towers,” Christopher Larsen, senior research analyst with Piper/Larsen, wrote in a note on last week’s CTIA show in New Orleans. “AT&T and Verizon have maintained their aggressive push to build-out LTE. Sprint is driving high levels of activity with its Network Vision deployment. Finally, T-Mobile is making progress with its LTE strategy, announcing its vendors this week. (see relate story) With the rapid growth of wireless data usage likely to continue and to push the carriers to keep up with capacity demands, we think the tower operators will continue to see strong growth in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.”
Mobile Experts projects more than 14 million radio transceivers will be installed during 2016, with more than half deployed for LTE services.
“Despite the rise of small cells, the macro infrastructure market will remain strong,” said Joe Madden, principal analyst at Mobile Experts. “In particular, rising data traffic demand will drive a need for ongoing investment in the macro layer, especially for 3G, TD-LTE, and LTE-FDD systems.”