Sprint Building Out LTE in 200+ Cities

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is now building out 4G LTE in more than 200 U.S. locations despite some vendor supply delays, the network operator revealed during its third-quarter earnings call Thursday.

Sprint currently has the new 4G technology available in 32 towns and cities in the U.S. and intends to have the service in 115 cities in "the coming months. Construction for 4G is now happening in more than 200 cities," noted Steve Elfman, Sprint's president of network operations and wholesale, during the call.

"We have 20,000 Network Vision sites leased and 13,500 ready for construction," he said. Nearly 4,300 of the upgraded 3G and 4G sites are now live.

Vendor delays
It hasn't been easy going, though. "We have seen some delays from our vendors largely due to logistics and supply concerns," Elfman said, adding that hurricanes in the U.S. in the summer also slowed the build-out.

Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Samsung Corp. are Sprint's suppliers for Network Vision. As we noted in July, Ericsson was the vendor that built out all of Sprint's initial 15 LTE sites. (See Sprint & Vendors Lagging on LTE Build?, Sprint's 4G LTE Scramble and Sprint's First to Deploy Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio .) Nonetheless, CEO Dan Hesse lauded the progress while noting that Sprint is unlikely to raise prices on its LTE service for the time being.

"It would be risky to raise prices when we're still at a 4G network disadvantage," Hesse said. "We intend to close that gap." (See Deciding On a 4G Operator for Your iPad Mini for the latest on LTE deployments in the U.S.)

Nextel losses continue
Sprint lost a total of 456,000 monthly contract customers during the quarter. The operator added 410,000 monthly customers on its Sprint network, but lost 866,000 on its Nextel iDEN network. The company noted that it "recaptured" 516,000 of those customers and converted them to Sprint.

Hesse noted that "recapturing" departing Nextel customers is a "priority" for Sprint. Closing down Nextel's iDEN network is crucial for the operator as it needs the 800MHz spectrum the network uses for LTE. Network guy Elfman said the company is on track to sunset iDEN by mid-2013.

The numbers
Sprint posted a loss of US$767 million, or $0.26 cents a share, on revenue of $8.76 billion, compared with a loss of $301 million, or $0.10 a share, on revenue of $8.33 billion in the same quarter the previous year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had been predicting a loss of $0.42 for the third quarter.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:18:39 PM
re: Sprint Building Out LTE in 200+ Cities

FYI, they sold 1.5M iPhones, 40% to new customers.

bergea 12/5/2012 | 5:18:38 PM
re: Sprint Building Out LTE in 200+ Cities

Sprint received the first $3.1 billion installment on the $20.1 billion investment by Softbank this week.  Coupled with a smaller than expected loss, this should provide the financial means for Sprint to reduce debt and accelerate the Network Vision build out.   

During the Q3 earnings call, Steve Elfman reported that the pace of Network Vision has accelerated as Sprint has expanded the number of cities under construction to over 200, and launched LTE in 32 cities with nearly 4,300 sites on air and more than 115 expected to launch in the months to come. Even so, Sprint has experienced some delays related to logistics execution and material shortages from its vendors and now is approximately 1 quarter behind in hitting the 12,000 site target.

Having secured a controling interest in Clearwire, Sprint could also accelerate the build out of its 2.5 GHz TD-LTE network and integrate it more tightly with its own LTE FDD network.  This would significantly increase the capacity of its LTE service along with its own 1900 and 800 MHz spectrum.  This will also allow Sprint to keep pace with traffic growth and bandwidth demand as it will soon carry the new fourth generation iPad and the iPad Mini.


joset01 12/5/2012 | 5:18:37 PM
re: Sprint Building Out LTE in 200+ Cities

Given that they have 200 cities in the works for LTE and increased capex to $1.4B this quarter I'd say they have already stepped up the pace.

I wonder which vendors are the hold-up?

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