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Sprint's Small Cell Suppliers Could Include Some Surprises

You could see some new and surprising names in the frame at Sprint as the operator sorts out small cell suppliers -- and more -- to add extra depth and capacity to its 4G network over the next few years.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) CEO Marcelo Claure said in the summer that the operator plans to deploy tens of thousands of small cells over the next three years. On the company's fiscal second-quarter call in November, the CEO also said that the operator is using "alternative vendors" as part of its network densification program.

The operator now has requests for proposals (RFPs) out regarding small cells and updated backhaul to support network densification. Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Nokia Networks are apparently among the usual suspects looking for a piece of the action.

Also under consideration, however, are Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN), which is developing pico basestations, and Airvana Inc. , which provides a distributed small cell system, among other vendors. (See Airvana Is Back With a 'Cloud RAN' 4G Biz Cell and Sprint Tests Small Cells at the Speedway.)

Read about the latest on mobile in our dedicated section on Light Reading.

Sprint's consideration of Airvana basestations may help to explain why CommScope Inc. took a $50 million gamble in September buying the startup. (See CommScope Adds Small Cells to DAS With Airvana Buy.)

Evidently, not even those familiar with the Sprint RFP process are quite sure when the operator will make its final decision, although Sprint will first nail down its eventual radio access network (RAN) suppliers before finalizing the backhaul piece.

"Hopefully, we're weeks or months away from a decision," Dave Jones, Zayo Group Inc. (NYSE: ZAYO)'s executive vice president of dark fiber solutions, told Light Reading on the sidelines of the Macquarie Mobile Day Conference in New York on Monday. Jones, however, couldn't be specific on an exact timeline.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

DanJones 12/8/2015 | 7:01:43 PM
Long process Evidently this RFP process has been going on for an age, from what I've been hearing.
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