Sprint Seeds Market with LTE-A Handsets
Sprint is collaborating with chipmaker Qualcomm to bring forward the availability of 3x carrier aggregation-capable LTE-Advanced smartphones as part of its relentless focus on "network quality and optimization," the operator's CEO stated Wednesday.
Talking during the Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) fiscal first quarter earnings call, CEO Dan Hesse said the operator is working with Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) to seed the market with 3x carrier aggregation-capable LTE-A handsets in advance of turning on its 2.5 GHz LTE TDD Spark network in late 2015. Qualcomm's 3x carrier aggregation-compatible chips will now be shipped in handsets during the first half of 2015, rather than the second half as initially planned. (See Sprint's Spark: It's Fast but No Multi-Tasker and Sprint: LTE TDD Speed Boost Coming Soon.)
Carrier aggregation is one of several features of LTE-Advanced that lets wireless operators bond together disparate spectrum bands to add capacity and faster data rates to their networks. (See Integrated Components Accelerate LTE.)
CTO John Saw said this strategy will help Sprint reach more customers with the improved network, promising peak speeds of 150-180 Mbit/s, by the time it's ready to flip the switch. In the meantime, 2x carrier aggregation will be available on the Sprint network by the end of 2014. (See Sprint Promises 180Mbit/s 'Peaks' in 2015 and Sprint Goes Live With 8T8R in Chicago.)
"In order to benefit from the full capabilities of carrier aggregation, we will need new handsets," Saw said on the call. "That is why Dan [Hesse] says we are working closely with our vendors to make sure we have enough handsets to pre-seed the markets with carrier aggregation-capable handsets."
The Sprint executives spent much of the call discussing their efforts to improve the Sprint network. Saw pointed out that the carrier has delivered on its three key milestones: substantially completing the rip-and-replacement of its legacy voice network; beating its commitment to cover 260 million potential customers with LTE by the end of June; and launching HD voice nationwide. (See Sprint's Hesse: HD Voice Goes Nationwide in July .)
"In the past few months, we have doubled down on our efforts to improve on our customer experience on our networks," Saw said during the call. "Engineers are working cell site by cell site to ensure they are all performing to optimal levels."
Sprint has a long way to go in achieving that goal, but it's financials are showing signs of improvement. The carrier returned to a profit of $23 million in the three months to the end of June, and saw its subscriber loss narrow to 220,000, down from 383,000 in the previous quarter. At the same time, its wireless retail service revenues of $6.9 billion were down 4% year-on-year as its ARPU fell in the quarter to $62.07, down from $64.20 a year ago and $63.52 in the first quarter. (See Sprint Earns $23M in Q2.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading