Sprint announced that it has deployed 2.5 GHz spectrum on 85 percent of its macro sites and it has 35,000 outdoor small cells deployed including both mini macros and strand mounts as it completed the initial launch of its True Mobile 5G network, during its fiscal year 2019 second quarter earnings call.
Recently announced service areas cover 16 million people within nine metropolitan areas – Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. In these areas, customers with 5G devices are experiencing dramatically faster speeds, with initial 5G performance results showing a nearly 6X increase in average download speed compared to Sprint LTE.
Sprint has continued the rollout of Massive MIMO antennas, with thousands of sites on-air across the country.
The company is offering 5G capable smartphones from LG, Samsung, and OnePlus, along with a hotspot device from HTC.
Sprint continues to advocate for its merger with T-Mobile to deploy a nationwide 5G network that includes coverage in rural locations. Together, the combined company is expected to provide a formidable 5G service. Sprint’s existing 5G deployment shows the potential of 5G, and the combined company is expected to have the resources and technology to bring that potential to reality by building a 5G network. The carrier just needs to hang on long enough for the merger to be completed.
In the last week, Sprint has opened the Curiosity IoT and 5G proving ground at Peachtree Corners, Georgia; and Verizon turned on its 5G Ultra Wideband network at the Mcity test facility at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Curiosity laboratory promises a “real-world smart city infrastructure” and 5G connectivity to enable companies to test cloud AI, robots and autonomous vehicle technology, among other things. The living laboratory, which includes a 1.5-mile autonomous test track located within an existing 500-acre technology park, enables companies to develop and test emerging technologies with live smart city infrastructure, next-generation connectivity amid real-world conditions.
The companies involved include Local Motors, an autonomous passenger shuttle; CloudMinds: a humanlike service robot with AI in the cloud; Softbank Robotics autonomous floor cleaner; Autonodyne Autonomous Drone, Valqari Drone and “Mailbox” Landing Pad; Georgia Power Smart Light Poles; Reef Kitchens Delivery-Only Kitchen Solution; and Kia Autonomous Vehicle
Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband Network at Mcity Test Facility
Verizon is working with Mcity to advance transportation safety and shape the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities using 5G. Adding Verizon 5G to the Mcity Test Facility required installing 5G-connected cameras at every intersection inside the facility to help identify traffic and pedestrian patterns to prevent collisions. While connected cars have sensors that can “talk” to each other to help avoid accidents, cameras connecting to traffic light signals can help protect people walking or biking. The 5G-connected cameras were installed by Econolite. Verizon and Econolite are members of Mcity’s Leadership Circle of industry partners.
Even as it has been making strides toward the T-Mobile merger, Sprint grew its capex $1.2 billion year-over-year for the fourth consecutive quarter as it nearly doubled the number of Massive multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) antennas on-air with 3,000 units deployed.
Massive MIMO is a breakthrough technology that improves network capacity and is at the foundation of Sprint’s. The company is using 64T64R (64 transmitters 64 receivers) Massive MIMO antennas in its “True Mobile 5G” network, which enables it to simultaneously deliver LTE and 5G New Radio (NR) service.
True Mobile 5G from Sprint is available in areas of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Kansas City, and the company expects to launch service in areas of Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., in the coming weeks. Once all nine metro areas are launched, Sprint’s mobile 5G network will cover approximately 2,100 square miles and 11 million people. 5G capable smartphones are being offered from LG and Samsung, and a hotspot device is available from HTC.
As it launches its own 5G network, Sprint said it continues to believe that a merger with T-Mobile is critical to accelerate the deployment of a ubiquitous, nationwide 5G network.
“The combined company is expected to have the resources and technology to build a 5G network that fuels innovation across every industry, dramatically increasing competition, unleashing new economic growth, and creating thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in U.S. economic value,” Sprint said in its press release. “Together, the combined company is expected to lead the world in next-generation technology services and applications, bringing 5G service to nearly all Americans.”
It’s not official, but it feels real. After months of speculation, Bloomberg Asia is reporting that Dish Network has agreed to buy wireless assets from T-Mobile and Sprint in a $5 billion deal creating a fourth carrier designed to convince the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) to bless the merger of the mobile phone carriers.
It’s not the final step before the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint becomes a reality, but it would appear to be a big one. The DoJ must still okay the merger and the states would have to withdraw their lawsuit. Then we can go back to the full-time task of wondering what Charlie Ergen will do next.
Dish would pay $1.5 billion to receive several prepaid mobile businesses and $3.5 billion for spectrum. In return, according to Bloomberg, the satellite TV provider would receive a seven-year wholesale agreement allowing it to sell T-Mobile wireless service under its brand and a three-year service agreement from T-Mobile to provide operational support.
Solving one of the final reported sticking points, Dish will not be allowed to sell the assets or hand over control of the agreement to a third party for three years, Bloomberg reported.
One of the reasons this year-plus roller coaster of negotiations feels like it is coming to an end stems from reports last week that the DoJ said it would oppose the merger, if T-Mobile and Sprint had did not finalize their deal with Dish within a week. A deadline! Who knew that would work?
New Street Research summarized what Dish will receive: 9 million prepaid subs, mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) status for 7 years, 14 megahertz of 800 MHz band spectrum and eSIM support. The firm also reported that there would be two payments: $1.4 billion now for prepaid subs and then $3.6 billion in three years for spectrum when it has been cleared.
What about Charter?
Adding another wrinkle to the story, Reuters reported that the Justice Department did not reply to Charter Communications’ proposal to buy the carriers’ telecom assets.
“The Justice Department’s lack of response to Charter could raise concerns among critics of the $26.5 billion merger of wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint that officials did not weigh all divestiture offers before deciding on a deal with Dish,” Reuters wrote.
And don’t forget about the lawsuit from several state attorneys general, which is attempting to block the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.
“The merger of T-Mobile and Sprint would stifle competition, cut jobs and harm vulnerable consumers from across the country, so unity among the states will be key in defending our citizens against this power-hungry corporate union,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. It is not known whether the Dish deal would pacify the state attorney general.
Can Dish Make It as a National Carrier?
New Street Research has published analysis that shows Dish would be a disruptor in the wireless business.
“Dish has a path to an attractive wireless business on their own; one that would result in a value well above where the stock is trading today,” the analysis reads. “If they can secure a network hosting deal with T-Mobile, the business would be more valuable still. We worked with network engineers to determine what it would cost Dish to build and operate a new 5G network. We show that, once fully loaded, Dish would have a lower cost per unit of capacity than any of the four national carriers today. This gives Dish the ability to price aggressively, to fill the network swiftly, and to create tremendous value for themselves at the expense of the existing carriers.”
The news of the breakthrough that may advance the merger was welcome for the wireless industry, but unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers. Will Dish continue to build out its license-saving internet-of-things network? The DoJ most likely will give it an extension to keep the millions of dollars of spectrum it has accrued.
“The broader question is what will they build and when will they build it?” asked Alex Gellman, CEO and cofounder of Vertical Bridge. “Will they build a 5G network and start transitioning the MVNO customers over? It makes sense if they have the freedom to figure out where most of the traffic is and can start picking off the hottest spots with their own proprietary infrastructure.” Comcast and Charter do not have the right to build their own cores as part of their MVNO deals with Verizon.
Perhaps the biggest questions that need to be answered, according to Gellman, is who does Dish partner with and when? “How quickly does Dish partner with someone to build the new network?” he asked. “Does that partner bring customers, capital or the ability to build? That is the wild card.”
But don’t hold your breath. Gellman said he believes Dish will take its time finding a partner and developing a build strategy. “They will take a measured approach,” he said. “They will get to know the Boost customers and they have seven years to use T-Mobile’s network. One thing is for sure, this deal cements the existence of a fourth carrier. Dish can no longer sell its spectrum to AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile.
Dish Network may be the lucky fourth carrier needed for U.S. Justice Department approval of the Sprint/T-Mobile merger, according reports by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. The announcement may come as soon as this week. Charlie Ergen has spoken about the importance of being at the inflection point of a technology change. It appears that DISH may also be at the right place at the right time.
“Dish Network is leading the race to scoop up assets that the Justice Department says Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US must sell to save their $26 billion merger,” according to the WSJ.
The Reuters news service based its report on meetings between Dish Network Corp executives and the DoJ and the FCC. Additionally, in a federal filing, Dish explained “the need for a minimum of four nationwide mobile network operators.”
Also in the running for role of fourth wireless competitor are Altice USA and Charter Communications.
States’ Complaint Still in Play
Remember the states’ lawsuit? Jennifer Fritzsche, Wells Fargo senior analyst, said, with the states worried about a loss in competition, a fourth carrier could impress them.
“Some believe that if the DoJ approves the deal – with significant concessions that may include the creation of new national carrier – this lessens (kills?) the States’ argument that this merger will hurt competition,” she wrote in an Equity Note.
Judge Victor Marrero, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, has been chosen to preside of the case. He doesn’t reportedly have a notable history of anti-trust opinions, Blair Levin, New Street Research, says he may be good for the states’ side.
“We think, however, that as a Clinton appointee, and as a person who worked in both local and state government, he is less likely to simply accept any argument from the Trump DOJ as gospel on antitrust economic analysis than other judges might,” Levin wrote in an NSR Policy note.