Sprint says it now has 5G-ready massive antenna arrays online, a technology that the CTO called a "lynchpin" of its forthcoming next-generation network.
"We now have a few massive MIMO sites on air," Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S)'s new CEO, Michael Combes, said Wednesday on the operator's fiscal first quarter 2018 earnings call, adding that the 2.4GHz massive input, massive output (massive MIMO) arrays are "5G-ready" with a software upgrade for the mobile 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G New Radio standard.
"We expect to provide mobile services and devices in the first half of 19," Combes said. (See Sprint Reveals 3 More 5G Cities, Promises 'Cool' 5G Phone & Small Cell and Intel Promises 5G Laptops With Sprint in 2019 .)
Sprint has previously said that massive MIMO will be deployed in its initial 5G cities first. Sprint has so far named Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Kansas City; Los Angeles; New York City; Phoenix; and Washington, D.C., as its first 5G markets. (See 5G in the USA: Where We at With Mobile?)
Massive MIMO will enable Sprint to run both LTE and 5G on its 2.5GHz band, CTO John Saw noted on the call. It is taking advantage of its higher-band spectrum to deploy 64 transmitters and 64 receivers (64T64R) in an array. It has already shown over 600-Mbit/s downloads on LTE over MIMO in New Orleans. (See Gigabit LTE: Sprint's MIMO Gras in New Orleans .)
CTO Saw has said that LTE speeds in its initial 5G markets are seeing a four-times increase in download speeds, although CEO Combes noted on the call that Sprint can build a better 5G network if its merger with T-Mobile is approved. (See Getting Real About Mobile 5G Speeds.)
New CFO Andrew Davies noted that capital expenditure for the quarter was "relatively flat" year-on-year, at $1.1 billion. Network spending will ramp up with the 5G build this year, to $5 billion or $6 billion.
Interestingly, Sprint now seems more open to using millimeter wave if it can buy licenses at auction in November. "It's an excellent opportunity to supplement our 2.5GHz portfolio for our 5G deployment," Combes said. (See Sprint Says No to mmWave, Yes to Mobile 5G and First 5G-Specific US Spectrum Auctions Coming November.)
For the quarter, Sprint posted $8.13 billion in revenue, with profit of $176 million, compared to $204 million last year. Earnings per share beat analyst expectations -- as surveyed by Zacks -- with 4 cents a share. Analysts had expected a loss of 1 cent.
Sprint shares are down slightly at $5.44 -- or 0.092% -- in morning trading.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading