January 26, 2016 — After a chaotic week of speculation in the press and on Wall Street, Sprint announced that it is executing on the same small cell densification plan that it had laid out previously. The announcement was meant as a response to an article in Re/Code that predicted Sprint would embark on a “radical overhaul” of its network, removing equipment from space leased on towers owned by American Tower and Crown Castle International.
“This is NOT a rip and replace strategy,” Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, told today’s 3Q, 2015, earnings call. “We continue to be focused on network performance as well as efficiency of capital and opex with the cost of building these costs materially less than macro sites in the past.”
Claure added that he is confident the company’s densification and optimization strategy will position the carrier for network parity or superiority within two years.
Sprint is deploying small cells using crowd source data, which allows a surgical approach to relieving customer pain points. Claure emphasized the importance to Sprint that any network changes do not harm the customer experience.
“The best part is this is it will be a progressive build whereby the customer experience will only improve incrementally with no disruptions in the service from existing sites,” he said.
Claure said Sprint’s best ever network performance is the result increased LTE deployment, spectrum, two-channel (2×20 megahertz) carrier aggregation in the 2.5 GHz band and antenna beamforming, which allows for create wider channels, more capacity and faster speeds.
“We are proud about how far the network has come and are excited to take it to new levels as we continue focus on densifying our network,” he said.
Sprint Will Seek Lowest Cost Solutions for Network Enhancement
Not to say that money isn’t an issue for Sprint. CFO John Saw said the carrier is looking at all the options to find the lowest prices for sites, whether it is an existing macro tower, a build to suit, a roof top or a pole attachment.
“We are going to be very opportunistic to lower costs,” he said. “There are opportunities to reduce our costs in backhaul, leveraging a hybrid approach of fiber and wireless. We are also testing 2.5 GHz spectrum for backhauling small cells, which we think will be more cost-efficient than trenching fiber.”
Sprint also plans to lower its roaming costs by over-building in high-roaming areas and working with partner carriers through the Competitive Carrier Association to expand its LTE footprint in rural areas.