Sprint Kicks Off 5G Tests in Levi's Stadium

Sprint kicked off its first high-frequency 5G tests last Friday with a demo in California at the Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

Working with Nokia Networks , the operator achieved download speeds of 2.3 Gbit/s at the Copa America Cup soccer tournament being held at the sports stadium. Nokia says it is using a 73GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) rig for these tests.

That's slightly faster than the 1.8Gbit/s top speeds Verizon Wireless has achieved, but it's still very early days for 5G testing: All four major US carriers are performing their tests with pre-standards technology, so performance comparisons shouldn't be taken too seriously. (See Verizon Could Take Fixed 5G Nationwide, Verizon Hits 1-Gig+ in 5G Trials, Eyes Early Applications and AT&T to Start 5G 'Friendly' Trial by 2016 End.)

That's not to say such tests are without merit. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) used the stadium to demonstrate live wireless 4K streaming and an immersive virtual reality (VR) system. YellowFan Studios, which appears to be a Sprint-driven YouTube video channel, features the operator's COO, Günther Ottendorfer, talking about the tests:

"We have the best foundation for 5G... You ain't seen nothing yet," boasts Ottendorfer on the video.

Sprint's mmWave tests indicate it is pursuing a two-pronged strategy with 5G. The 73GHz tests suggest it is starting to kick the tires of high-speed, high-density mmWave services. AT&T Mobility LLC , T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon are also testing mmWave -- mostly at 28GHz -- this year. (See T-Mobile to Test 5G With Nokia, Ericsson .)

Sprint, however, is also pushing its 2.5GHz holdings as suitable spectrum for the future wireless technology. "We view our 2.5GHz spectrum as the low-band spectrum of 5G," Sprint CEO Marcello Claure said in May. (See Sprint CEO: Our Spectrum Is for 5G and Sprint: We're Building a 5G-Ready Network, Not a 4G Relic.)

More stadium tests are coming from Sprint, with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) expected to provide the technology for some 15GHz demos at the Lincoln Financial Field stadium in Philadelphia starting next week.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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