Sprint held a call after its morning earnings report Tuesday specifically to discuss the launch of its latest LTE small cell. Yes, you read that right, and no, this isn't 2013 and you haven't slipped into a Light Reading wormhole. Sprint is really excited about its new 4G "Magic Box" small cell!
In fact, SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son -- majority owner of Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) -- even got on the company's earnings call to discuss the Magic Box, among other things. (See Son & Sprint Talk Mergers, Trump & 5G.)
So what -- if anything -- makes the Magic Box different?
"It's the world's first all-wireless small cell," says Günther Ottendorfer, COO of technology at Sprint. What this means is the tiny basestation uses a radio connection to link it back to a Sprint cellsite as well as for the user connectivity. No more plugging into the homeowner's DSL for connectivity.
The device -- developed by Airspan Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: AIRN) -- is primarily intended help Sprint's 2.5GHz 4G LTE signal cover a subscriber's domicile and the surrounding, although it can also connect to the "donor" macro-site over Sprint's 1900MHz network too, if no 2.5GHz signal is available. CTO John Saw says that Sprint now covers more than 200 million Americans with its 2.5GHz LTE network.
The box also has self-optimizing (SON) software onboard, which allows it to be a good neighbor with other radio signals and avoid network interference. "You can increase the overall capacity [of the network] with the Magic Box, and decrease interference, Gunther said.
The box, which can be installed by the user, can cover up to 200 meters outdoors. There are "2 sectors" on the send channel of the radio, according to Saw -- one covering indoors and one covering outdoors.
Finally, Sprint says it will be given free to qualifying customers.
This matters because it could be the start of an interesting trend for Sprint. 5G is expected to rely on multitudes of small cells to improve high-band coverage. Getting users to deploy small cells on their own properties may be one way to alleviate municipal ordinance costs. (See Know Your Small Cell: Home, Enterprise, or Public Access?)
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading