Sprint plans to increase the total number of its macro-sites by nearly 20 percent to expand its total footprint, Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, said during the company’s the third quarter 2017 earnings call. It has already issued search rings to tower and infrastructure companies.
Sprint also plans to tri-band nearly all of our existing sites with all three of our spectrum bands 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz to provide increased coverage across its footprint.
“Roughly half of our macro sites have 2.5 GHz today, and we have already started on thousands of site upgrades and expect to complete the majority of site upgrades in 2018. We have already signed agreements with two major tower companies to facilitate a swift rollout of these site upgrades,” Claure said.
The plan also calls for additional small cells including Sprint Magic Boxes, mini-macros and strand mounts, taking advantage of agreements with Altice and Cox to provide backhaul. The company has already deployed more than 80,000 Sprint Magic Boxes in 200 cities and plans to deploy 1 million in the long run.
“Next, we plan to deploy more than 40,000 outdoor small cell solutions. In addition, our strategic agreements with Altice and Cox will also enable us to quickly and cost effectively deploy our various small cell solutions, including at least 15,000 strand mounted small cells and improved backhaul economics for our macro sites. We are already working to light up Long Island, and look forward to expanding the rest of Altice and Cox footprints to accelerate our network deployment,” Claure said.
Deployment of 64X transmit 64X receive Massive MIMO 2.5 GHz radios will increase capacity up to 10 times that of current LTE systems and increase data speeds in high-traffic locations. Massive MIMO support both LTE and future 5G NR (New Radio) modes simultaneously without additional tower climbs.
“Now let me tell you about another element of our Next-Gen Network plan that we are beyond excited about, and that is the rollout of Massive MIMO. It leverages our 2.5 GHz and creates a strategic advantage for Sprint,” Claure said. “Massive MIMO involves deploying a new integrated unit that will have 128 antenna elements with 64 transmitters and 64 receivers and which deliver a capacity increase of up to 10 times on LTE relative to current LTE systems, while also increasing our coverage and cell edge performance.”
Sprint is planning on using Massive MIMO as its bridge to 5G, because the Massive MIMO radios are software upgradeable to 5G NR.
The First to 5G?
Sprint plans to launch commercial mobile 5G by the first half of 2019. The carrier is best positioned to be the first carrier with a nationwide mobile 5G platform, according to Claure, because it will use 2.5 GHz spectrum instead of millimeter wave spectrum, which has wide bands but limited propagation.
“Sprint is the only carrier that doesn’t have to compromise what 5G can deliver because we can deliver the super-wide channels of more than 100 megahertz while still delivering mid-band coverage characteristics,” Claure said. “With more than 160 megahertz of 2.5 GHz spectrum available in the top 100 U.S. markets, this gives Sprint the largest nationwide bloc of sub-6 GHz 5G spectrum available in the U.S.”