Even with weather hindrances, such as Superstorm Sandy, Sprint nearly doubled the number of sites in its Network Vision sites on air in the last 90 days, with more than 8,000 sites in 58 cities, according to the fourth quarter 2012 earnings conference call.
LTE services are expected to commence in nearly 170 more expected in coming months, construction has been started in more than 450 cities and more than 19,500 sites are now ready for construction, a 45 percent increase compared with the third quarter, according to Steve Elfman, president, Sprint network operations.
“In the fourth quarter, average new sites on air per week grew 83 percent from the third quarter,” he said. “We have zoning complete on 29,000 sites and leasing complete on 27,000 sites, a 34 percent increase over Q3 for both.”
Average downlink and uplink speeds are in the range of 6 to 8 megabits per second for downlink and 2 to 3 megabits per second for uplink, according to Elfman.
“We are also very pleased with the performance we are seeing on LTE sites we have on air,” he said. “We expect this performance to improve as we bring full site clusters on air and continue to tune the network.”
Progress on the Network Vision is the result of increased investment at Sprint Nextel. The carrier is beginning the second year of the investment phase its turnaround, which includes building a new network platform and eliminating duplicative network cost structure.
“We are committed to deploying Network Vision as quickly as we can, said Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel. “We doubled our wireless capex year over year as we deployed this leading edge network.”
Capital expenditures for the fourth quarter were more than $1.9 billion, including $1.3 billion of Network Vision capital. Network Vision capital was up 24 percent sequentially as the build continues to gain momentum, according to Joseph Euteneuer, chief financial officer.
And the money will continue to flow into infrastructure in 2013. In the first two quarters of 2013, total capex is expected to be at a similar or higher than fourth quarter 2012, Euteneuer said.
“We believe that the faster we can deploy the capital and higher standards we can deploy in the network architecture the better off we will be,” he said. “Including some delays spend from 2012 coming into 2013, these areas will contribute to heightened capital spend in 2013 while we believe will help us move more quickly towards becoming a stronger and more competitive company.”
Jennifer Fritsche, senior analyst, Wells Fargo, applauded Sprint’s capex spend plans, which would amount to $3.8 billion in the first half of 2013.
“Big capex number yes. But now is time to spend,” she said. “We believe it is smart for the company to spend this now in an effort to make it competitive with its larger peers.”
Of course, capex spend in the second half 2013 will be affected greatly by the result of the Softbank’s attempt to infuse $20 billion into the carrier.