Sprint's CEO is pushing the notion that the carrier already has the lower frequency bandwidth available that is suitable for 5G, as the operator continues to build out its 4G network.
Most of the excitement around 5G in the US is currently centered around the so-called milimeter and centimeter wave bands -- 15GHz, 28GHz, 39Ghz, 60GHz -- because these bands offer operators lots of new radio spectrum in which to deploy 5G. International operators and vendors, though -- such as NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. -- are also pushing a "sub-6GHz" approach, at least for some 5G applications.
Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) has, of late, jumped on that particular bandwagon. "We view our 2.5GHz spectrum as the low-band spectrum of 5GHz," CEO Marcello Claure said on the operator's second quarter earnings call Tuesday.
This builds on what CFO Tarek Robbiati already said in March: That through its extensive network densification program, which is underway now with small cells, repeaters, "light pole options" and more, Sprint is building a "5G-ready network." (See Sprint: We're Building a 5G-Ready Network, Not a 4G Relic and Sprint: 5G in the US After 2020?)
In today's 4G world, Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum is pretty much a high-band frequency, of course. Yet 5G, which will be 10s to 100s of times faster than 4G (depending on who you believe), is going up in the world to get access to more spectrum. (See FCC Chair Wants to Take 5G Higher.)
All the other major mobile operators in the US have applied for radio licenses to test in the centimeter and milimeter wave bands. Sprint, however, is now pushing the concept of 2.5GHz as a suitable band for 5G. (See T-Mobile Seeks FCC License for 5G Tests , Verizon Hits 1-Gig+ in 5G Trials, Eyes Early Applications and AT&T Wants to Start 5G Tests in Austin.)
If the industry and the market buy into this, it could also have a financial benefit for Sprint. As the CFO mentioned in passing on the earnings call, Sprint is still considering its options for leasing a slice of its 2.5GHz spectrum in the US, and marketing it as a 5G frequency could add to its perceived value.
The CFO also expects Sprint to supplement its macro network with small cells and more. The company spent $7 billion on capital expenditure in its fiscal 2015, $4.7 billion of which was on network expenditure. Robbiati is guiding for $3 billion in total capex for fiscal 2016.
This is all part of Sprint's ongoing cost-cutting -- and cash raising program -- for the next 12 months. "This year we were able to take out $1.3 billion of costs and our goal is take out $2 billion of costs next year," said CEO Claure on the Tuesday earnings call. (See Sprint Bags Another $3.1B in Financing and Sprint to Take $2B Shave.)
For the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2015, Sprint reported quarterly revenue of $8.07 billion, compared with $8.28 billion in the same period last year. The operator's net loss was up at $544 million, or $0.14 loss per share, compared with $224 million last year.
Despite the widening loss, things were not as bad as analysts had expected. The market also judged that Sprint is actually turning things around. Sprint shares are currently up 2.15%, or $0.08, at $3.56 on the news.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading