Sprint Says It Will Offer Nationwide 5G By Mid-2019
Sprint will use its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings to provide the backbone for its planned 5G network, which is on deck to go live during the first half of 2019. The company is already hard at work on what it calls its Next-Gen Network. Sprint plans to deploy 64T64R Massive MIMO 2.5 GHz radios, which it says will increase capacity by as much as 10 times that of current LTE systems, in addition to boosting data speeds. Massive MIMO will support both LTE and 5G New Radio services at the same time on the same towers. The company is already in the process of upgrading its towers in all three spectrum bands (800 MHz, 1.9 GHz, and 2.5 GHz). It plans to build thousands of new cell cites as part of its densification project, and hopes to deploy up to one million Sprint Magic Boxes. The Sprint Magic Boxes are small cells already being used at 80,000 sites across 200 cities. "We’re working with Qualcomm and network and device manufacturers in order to launch the first truly mobile 5G network in the United States by the first half of 2019," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure today during the company's quarterly earnings call. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all committed to launching some form of 5G service later this year, though none has a nationwide footprint on deck for launch. Sprint has 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets around the U.S. Sprint's competitors are eyeing other spectrum bands for their 5G networks. For example, T-Mobile plans to use some of its 600 MHz holdings. Sprint says chipsets and devices are in the works, too. "We have come to an agreement with Qualcomm that they are going to be able to release this toward the later end of 2018, the new chipsets," said Claure. "And we have had a conversation with a leading Korean manufacturer to basically have devices ready by the first half of 2019." LG and Samsung are both based in Korea. Sprint expects to charge more for unlimited 5G service. Claure believes it has more wiggle room with respect to price than its competitors because it currently charges less for unlimited 4G service. In other Sprint news, the company said it added 256,000 postpaid customers during the fourth quarter of 2017, as well as 63,000 prepaid customers.
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