Sprint's CTO, John Saw, says that the operator will start deploying "Gigabit LTE" across "major markets" this year, starting with New Orleans.
The Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CTO highlighted the operator's move towards Gigabit LTE in a new blog ostensively about the operator's plans to deploy 5G on its 2.5GHz spectrum. (See Sprint Plans 2.5GHz-Based 5G Launch in 2019.)
He also, however, writes about Sprint's further plans for updates to its 4G networks:
- Today’s most advanced radio antennas are 8T8R (8 transmitters, 8 receivers) - it’s what we use on our 2.5 GHz cell sites. And 8T8R is only possible using high-band spectrum - an 8T8R antenna using 600 MHz spectrum would be impractically huge! But we are not done yet. We plan to take Sprint Gigabit LTE to the next level with 64T64R (that’s 128 antenna elements!) Massive MIMO [multiple input, multiple output] antennas. This will increase our cell site capacities 5 to 10 times, to reach 3-6 Gbps per sector, long before 5G arrives.
The NOLA kick-off won't be a surprise for regular Light Readers. Sprint demonstrated 600-Mbit/s downloads in the Big Easy earlier this year, while massive MIMO antennas will arrive first for higher-band networks like 2.5GHz. (See Sprint to Be 1st in US With Massive MIMO? and Gigabit LTE: Sprint's MIMO Gras in New Orleans for more.)
To achieve near-Gigabit LTE speeds, an operator needs at least 4x4 MIMO antennas -- preferably on the network and handset -- 60MHz of available spectrum, and updated 256 QAM modulation on the network. Sprint claims an average of 160MHz of 2.5GHz across major markets. In theory, at least, this means that Sprint has enough available spectrum to deploy the LTE-Advanced updates -- and 5G -- on its 2.5GHz spectrum.
CTO Saw notes in his blog that 2.5GHz will now be one of the bands in the early 5G New Radio specification, which is expected to be completed in December 2017. (See 3GPP Approves Plans to Fast Track 5G NR.)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading