CHICAGO -- Sprint's first 8T8R antennas are now live in Chicago, the carrier confirmed on Monday, along with a slew of other announcements it made from the city's Museum of Broadcast Communications.
John Saw, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s chief network officer, told Light Reading the carrier has completed lab testing with all three of its vendor partners and is coming off field trials of 8T8R, the multiple antenna technology that combines eight-transmit/eight-receive radios at the cell site to boost the performance of Sprint Spark's LTE TDD 2.5 GHz spectrum. (See Sprint Promises 180Mbit/s 'Peaks' in 2015 and Sprint: LTE TDD Speed Boost Coming Soon.)
The first live Samsung Corp. base stations are now up and running in Chicago, Saw says, and field trials are wrapping up in Baltimore and Atlanta, among other cities. Sprint plans to ramp up its deployment now, and the former Clearwire CTO says its customers will notice the benefit in terms of speed and coverage as it continues to turn up sites.
"We have quite a few Sprint Spark sites, 2.5 MHz, in Chicago already, and the plan is to build many more," Saw told us. "We have densified so customers get a better experience today."
Going forward, Saw says, the combination of 8T8R and carrier aggregation will lead to speeds in excess of 100 Mbit/s, even up to 1 Gbit/s, as well as the use of beamforming to improve the speed, range, and signal-to-noise quality of data transmission.
"That's the potential we're trying to show with the right technology and right spectrum," Saw says, noting that doing 8T8R at any other frequency would lead to base stations the size of small cars. Sprint plans to roll out 8T8R radios nationwide, reaching 100 million people by the end of the year.
Sprint also said Monday that HD voice is now officially nationwide, reaching 16 million customers. It announced an additional 28 LTE markets and three Sprint Spark markets: St. Louis and Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. The carrier also said it will launch international WiFi calling in the coming weeks, letting its customers make calls and send texts over WiFi in more than 100 countries. (See Sprint's Hesse: HD Voice Goes Nationwide in July .)
On the services end, Sprint announced Framily Wall, a private app for members of a Framily plan to communicate, share content, and locate each other. It also announced a partnership with Under Armour and Samsung on the Galaxy S5 Sport for MapMyFitness, S Health, and Spotify integration. (See Sprint Launches No-Sharing 'Framily' Plans.)
Sprint also took a page from T-Mobile US Inc. with a money-back guarantee. Unlike the "uncarrier," which isn't requiring customers to leave their current carriers, however, Sprint just says it will guarantee the customer experience on any Sprint device, letting customers return their phones within 30 days if unsatisfied. (See T-Mobile: You, Seven Nights & the Music.)
"We're confident we're turning the corner with our coverage and quality," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse said. "We believe our network combined with great customer experience will delight customers."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading