Sprint is making Chicago its chosen city to showcase its network, investments and civic commitment, as the carrier says that it will deploy LTE-Advanced in Chicago first, as well as add 115 stores and over 540 jobs before the end of the year and commit $250,000 to further the city's digital ambitions.
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) announced its commitment to the Windy City on Monday in a press conference with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
On the network front, the initiative -- Sprint for Chicago -- will see the carrier building out hundreds of new Spark cell sites, as part of an expected investment of $45 million in its network infrastructure between now and the end of 2016. Chicago will also be the first city where Sprint deploys carrier aggregation between its LTE TDD spectrum in the 2.5GHz band with its LTE FDD spectrum in 1.9GHz, as well as deploys Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas and 8T8R, or eight transmitters, eight receivers radio technology. (See Sprint Plans to Meld TDD, FDD LTE Spectrum and Sprint Promises 180Mbit/s 'Peaks' in 2015.)
The Windy City has always been one of the carrier's best performing markets, and was among the first to get its tri-mode Spark upgrade. Its LTE network performance rates second here, behind Verizon Wireless , in RootMetrics 's latest study, and it's the best performing wireless network at Chicago's O'Hare airport. (See Sprint Versus T-Mobile: Which Metrics Matter?)
Sprint says it has invested more than $548 million to improve wireless in Chicago since 2012, and it's seen usage here grow more than 640% since then.
On the retail front, Sprint is adding 115 new stores to the city and surrounding suburbs in 2015, which will allow it to add 540 jobs here this year. Sprint President of Sales Jaime Jones says the 115 stores will be a mix of former Radio Shack locations that Sprint has taken over, those in which it will launch a co-branded store-within-a-store with RadioShack, Sprint-branded stores in vacant real estate and traditional store expansions. (See Sprint Teams Up With Bankrupt RadioShack and Sprint, RadioShack Shack-Up Looks Inevitable .)
It'll get off the ground with 17 to 18 "pop-up shops" in mid-April, Jones says, with small, temporary storefronts it can potentially turn into permanent locations. The carrier is also exploring opening its first destination store similar to what AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Wireless have done on the Michigan Avenue shopping strip. (See Pics: Verizon's Chicago Destination Store and Photos: AT&T's New Chicago Playland.)
At the press conference, Mayor Emanuel also talked up the city's plans to upgrade its entire subway system to LTE, calling public transportation "the new office." Sprint is part of the network upgrade, and says many of its new cell sites will be going up near the subway routes to provide connectivity. (See US Ops Spend $32.5M to Bring 4G to Chicago's Subways.)
The Mayor has pledged to bring the digital economy to all parts of Chicago, including the surrounding suburbs, a pledge he's talking up as he gears up for a run-off election next month. Sprint will donate $250,000 to help expand the Connect Chicago Challenge, part of the Broadband Challenge, announced in 2012 to increase digital access in the city. (See IoT Council, CityWorks Coalesce in Chicago.)
Sprint could've picked any city for its investment, Jones says, but decided Chicago was the best as it’s a "great place to live, visit and do business." It will replicate its investment here in other cities over the next several years.
"We're really excited about the collaboration with the city," he told Light Reading after the press conference. "We really believe we can do good things from an economic standpoint and good things for those who live and work in the city and we're excited to expand here."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading