Print 17 comment(s) - last by TheRequiem.. on Dec 29 at 3:20 PM

Full-fledged LTE rollout will be completed in 2013

Sometimes being an early adopter doesn't pay off.  

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) was the first major U.S. carrier to "go 4G" -- launching a 4G modem card way back in Dec. 2008.  But despite that head start, it saw its platform of choice -- WiMAX -- go the way of HD-DVD, as the nation's largest carriers went LTE instead.  Now with Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodafone Group Plc. (LON:VOD), and AT&T, Inc. (T) knee deep in consumer LTE deployments [1][2], Sprint is left playing catch-up.

In a press release Sprint discusses its LTE progress, revealing that it has completed testing in its labs a new platform called "Network Vision", which Sprint will use to rapidly deploy LTE across the country.  Network Vision is a comprehensive platform, which will overhaul Sprint's network, deploying LTE and beefing up existing 3G support.

Sprint describes:

Nationwide, Sprint is overhauling its entire network and replacing existing equipment with the newest, most advanced equipment available in the industry through a program called Network Vision. Announced in December 2010, Network Vision is planned to consolidate multiple network technologies into one seamless network with the goal of increasing efficiency and enhancing network coverage, call quality and data speeds for customers.

The carrier also drops a timeframe of when consumers will first get access to "Network Vision" LTE -- mid-2011:

Throughout 2011, Sprint achieved a number of significant milestones in the deployment of Network Vision. It is on track to offer LTE devices by mid-year 2012 and complete the majority of its Network Vision rollout in 2013. Sprint expects to make additional announcements about the timing of LTE markets and devices early next year.

Sprint reports that it has already set up its "back office systems" to support the new LTE base-stations, to allow for a "seamless rollout".

LTE tower
Sprint's back-end is ready for rapid rollout of LTE. [Image Source: Wind River blog]

LTE is not the carrier's sole focus, however.  It has been working heavily to try to beef up its 3G network and keep pace with Verizon's industry-leading coverage.  Sprint writes that it doubled infrastructure investments in 2011 to perform "tens of thousands of capacity upgrades".  The 3G upgrades should both boost data speeds and decrease dropped calls.

Bob Azzi, a Sprint senior vice president comments, "With the network investments we made in 2011 and as the only national wireless carrier to offer truly unlimited data plans while on the Sprint network, we continue to offer better value than Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T.  But our commitment to an exceptional wireless experience doesn't stop there. Sprint's on an aggressive path to roll out Network Vision, and in collaboration with our partners, have already achieved many significant milestones that offer improved customer experience on the Sprint 3G network, and we expect to maintain and even accelerate this momentum in 2012."

Sprint is riding high after ranking just a hair behind Verizon Wireless for the distinction of highest U.S. carrier consumer satisfaction on the 2011 American Customer Satisfaction Index, and for also earning the distinction of being the most improved in customer satisfaction.  Sprint also is celebrating the death of AT&T's bid to acquire Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA.

However, the firm continues to bleed cash quarterly and is faced with the tough prospect of how customers will react to its gradual phase-out of unlimited data.  While Sprint has not given an exact time frame for phase-out of unlimited smartphone data, sources indicate that move could come within a year.  The carrier has already completed the first step in its unlimited cuts, killing unlimited tethering.

Source: Sprint [Press Release via MarketWatch]

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RE: I don't understand
By DRoseman on 12/29/2011 1:33:38 PM , Rating: 2
Sprint is deploying LTE on its 1900 spectrum using multimodal technology on it's sites via Network Vision deployments. Multimodal will enable multiple spectrums and technologies to be supported on the same sites and more importantly it provides the ability to support subsequent spectrum by adding antennae rather than new base stations. This opens up a new line of wholesale business with agreements like LightSquared 4G hosting. For more on what Sprint has accomplished in 2011 and where they're headed:

The LightSquared agreement is a wholesale hosting agreement to deploy LightSquare's spectrum on Sprint's sites. No plans have been announced for Sprint to leverage that deployment as part of its LTE network.

On the otherhand, Sprint and Clearwire have announced an agreement to leverage Clearwire's planned 2012 LTE deployment on 2.5 GHz as capacity overflow beginning sometime in 2013.

There is no doubt that Sprint has an extremely aggressive timeline for deploying LTE, beginning in mid-2012; but it's entirely possible because of the multimodal Network Vision deployments. And keep in mind that Sprint has an extremely successful track record for meeting it's stated goals in the face of overwhelming odds. For example it was only about five years ago that Sprint had the worst reputation for customer service but now are now neck in neck with Verizon, earning the distinction of most improved. Sprint focused on deploying WiMAX to more than 110M pops and worked with Clearwire to make that happen and so were first to market with 4G. Sprint focused on reducing churn and has posted some of the lowest churn % in years -- hoping to further reduce those numbers by eliminating one of the most common reason customers leave -- the iPhone. (Although plans for iPhone 5 have not been publicly announced, if it is released with LTE, then Sprint's customers will benefit from the 2012-2013 LTE deployment.) And now they're focusing on the future of their customers' needs with a technology that's flexible enough to be upgraded and expanded in the most efficient way possible.

It would be a mistake to count Sprint out not only because they're the little engine that could; but because they're the only telecom company that truly advocates for their customers. The best example of this is that they stood alone amongst their competitors in the opposition of the AT&T and T-Mobile merger which has finally died. That merger would have created a duopoly effectively shutting down competition and slowing the need for developing innovative solutions for customers including not just technology; but pricing options.

RE: I don't understand
By TheRequiem on 12/29/2011 3:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
1900mhz "initially"... in the first half of 2013 when iden goes bye bye, they will be moving it to alarger spectrum in their 800mhz range and upgrading to LTE-Advanced.

RE: I don't understand
By TheRequiem on 12/29/2011 3:20:43 PM , Rating: 2
Also, they will be moving their CDMA services off of 1900mhz and launching VoLTE (Voice over LTE). Also, not first half, it will be the very beginning of 2013 apparently when all this happens, so in about a year from now give or take a few months.

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