Sprint Says No to mmWave, Yes to Mobile 5G

Sprint's CTO said Wednesday that he is not sure that using millimeter waves to deliver 5G services is a practical economic use of the high-band spectrum and that Sprint will be focusing on using its existing bandwidth to deploy 5G, at least initially.

"What is the cost to deliver a bit over millimeter waves? Where is the business case on that?" John Saw asked at the Citi conference in Las Vegas.

The logic here is that using sub-6GHz networks to deliver 5G -- Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) is using 2.5GHz -- will allow operators to get better coverage than mmWave (typically 28GHz or 39GHz) and re-use its infrastructure.

What we've seen so far of millimeter wave tests suggests signal ranges of a quarter of a mile or less. So, millimeter wave deployments will require many, many more small cells, repeaters, and sundry antennas than we have ever seen before in cellular network deployment. It could require a small cell -- or more -- per city block for mobile coverage. (See High-Band 5G: Let's Address the Range Question, Shall We?)

"We need to solve the cost challenges before you can scale millimeter wave," Saw said.

He did say that mmWave could be useful as a hotspot "overlay" to a lower band 5G network, but he added that "the laws of physics say it won't propagate very far."

Of course, Saw couldn't do much with millimeter bands even if he wanted to. As things stand in the US today, Sprint doesn't have access to the 24GHz and higher bands. The FCC has yet to set a date for millimeter-wave band auctions, so it could be a while before Sprint even has an opportunity to buy some of that spectrum.

In the meantime, Sprint is upping its capex as it builds a bridge from 4G to 5G on its 2.5GHz spectrum. Sprint is expecting to spend $5 billion to $6 billion on capital expenditure in the fiscal year that begins April 1. (See Sprint's 2.5GHz LTE Spend Will Grow in 2017.)

Saw says that the network spending priorites will be: rolling out 2.5GHz coverage to "nearly" all sites; adding new "destination sites, where customers like to roam in the summer;" and upgrading from antennas with eight transmit and receive elements (8T8R) to "massive MIMO" 64T64R units. (see Sprint COO on Massive MIMO Deployment: 'You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet'.)

"It's going to be a bridge to 5G," Saw said. (See Sprint Says Massive MIMO, Coming in 2018, Is the Bridge to 5G.)

This is because, like T-Mobile US Inc. , Sprint can now deploy 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR)-ready gear as it upgrades in 2018 and use its existing spectrum to host both 4G and 5G, Saw said. (See Sprint Gets Ready for Massive MIMO, Eyes 2.5GHz for 5G.)

"I can run LTE and NR on the same massive MIMO site, without climbing the tower again in 2019," the CTO said. "It kills two birds with one stone."

Saw said that Sprint will focus solely 5G on mobile broadband initially, with an eye on IoT in the future. His comments suggest a likely timeline of a later in 2019 or 2020 software update to switch on 5G on the Sprint network after the 5G-ready equipment is deployed.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 1/17/2018 | 1:26:23 PM
Re: Sprint and T-Mobile Well, if you're right, that's going to raise some interesting questions about the competitive enivornment in the US.
Austin Idol 1/16/2018 | 12:41:17 PM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive Happy Clappy? We have come a long way and are going super sonic with 5G:



DanJones 1/16/2018 | 11:37:49 AM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive There's so may articles about how wonderful 5G is going to be, there's really no need for to be all happy-clappy about it.
Austin Idol 1/15/2018 | 9:05:44 AM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive Danny Doubter makes his appearance. Always poking holes and throwing cheap grenades from the bleacher seats. MM Wave will be placed first where it can get a good ROI and then you will have LTE enhanced in your more rural areas. That is the model  they will pursue. AT&T and Verizon are  poised to completely obliterate T-Mobile and Sprint better find a wealthy dance partner soon(Comcast / Charter). Sprint is far more  attractive than T-Mobile with it's spectrum assets and Son has far greater vision than DT's Tmobile which is simply on the selling block and looking for a buyer. Me thinks when one gets under the hood of Tmobile they aren't liking what they see.
DanJones 1/12/2018 | 2:32:42 PM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive Well mmWave will have the speed but not the range or propagation. Low band gives you the range but not the speed. How do you square that circle?
JDonahue 1/12/2018 | 11:50:35 AM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive 600mhz and up may be part of the standard, to appease a carrier like T-Mobile but it'll never have the capacity that mmWave does.

5G marketing and reality - two completely different animals.
DanJones 1/12/2018 | 11:36:08 AM
Re: Sprint and T-Mobile Enhanced Mobile Broadband is being listed as an initial business case for 5G by Sprint. IoT coming further out.
DanJones 1/12/2018 | 11:34:06 AM
Re: 5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive 600MHz and 700MHz are low-bands for 5G, yep. Lot of bands to support in 5G already.
timothyfahey 1/11/2018 | 3:40:32 PM
Re: Sprint and T-Mobile What is the business case for 5G? who benefits? 
JDonahue 1/11/2018 | 2:50:08 PM
5G Rollouts Will be Incredibly Expensive Which is why Verizon has said they will only rollout 5G in areas they have already rolled out 5G Fixed wireless.  Those 1,700 strand fiber cables will support fixed 5G and business services in metro areas creating a $$ case for 5G wireless.  I think they've said what 2020 for 5G wireless? Maybe it was 2022.

Sprint is no where near financially stable enough for a 5G rollout.  TMobile may call 600mhz 5G but will 600mhz be oart of a 5G standard?
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