Sprint Gets 5G in Place for First Half of 2019

Sprint now has "massive MIMO" radio technology -- the cornerstone of its forthcoming 5G push -- up in three markets, as it prepares to launch in nine cities using the next-generation networks in the first half of 2019.

"We are very much on track," CTO John Saw said of the operator's 5G preparations Wednesday morning on Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s fiscal Q2 earnings call.

Sprint has two crucial elements it needs in place to be 5G-ready. One is its 2.5GHz spectrum footprint, which will be used to deploy mobile 5G. "We now have 2.5[GHz] on 70% of our macro sites," new CEO Michel Combes said.

The other element is massive multiple input, multiple out (MIMO) antennas, which should boost speed -- by around ten times -- as well as capacity, with 64 transmit, 64 receive (64T64R) elements. 4x4 antennas are typically the state-of-the-art for 4G LTE now.

Saw has previously said that Sprint's forthcoming 5G network, which which will also support 4G LTE, will deliver 5G service at "hundreds of megabits" while supporting both networks. (See Slideshow: Behind the Scenes at Sprint's 5G 'Split'.)

Sprint's 2.5GHz 5G network will be a key part of Sprint's merger story with T-Mobile US Inc. , along with T-Mobile's 600MHz network. However, unlike T-Mobile executives on their Tuesday call, Sprint executives barely referenced the planned merger on their call. CEO Combes did mention, in the question and answer session, that Sprint could be seeing "customer confusion" over the merger impacting its base. (See T-Mobile: 6 of Top 10 US Markets Ready for Our 5G in 2019.)

With its 5G ramp-up, Sprint is expecting to continue to up its capital expenditures over the next couple of years, although the operator has narrowed its expectation for the fiscal year from a $5 billion to $6 billion range, to a $5 billion to $5.5 billion range.

For the quarter, Sprint reported net income of $196 million, compared to a loss of $48 million in the same quarter last year. Total revenues were $8.4 billion, compared to $7.9 billion last year.

Sprint reported postpaid (monthly subscriber) net device adds of 109,000, including tablets and wearables. Sprint, however, listed postpaid phone losses of 34,000, compared to additions of 279,000 last year.

Combes noted that while smartphones will still be its focus, Sprint will be more aggressive pushing tablets and wearables in the future.

Sprint shares were up $0.59 -- or 10.53% -- at $6.29 each in Wednesday morning trading.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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