Sprint's still in the early stages of building out its multi-band LTE network, but the Network Vision carrier is committing to including tri-band support in all the handsets it launches in 2014, along with HD voice capabilities.
Speaking at a Wells Fargo & Co. investor conference Wednesday, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) Joe Euteneuer said that all future handsets will have HD voice and will support all its flavors of LTE spectrum, including 1.9 GHz, 800 MHz, and 2.5 GHz. Although, when asked about the iPhone, he admitted he doesn't know whether Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will support tri-band or not. Sprint will launch an initial six to eight tri-band handsets in the fourth quarter. (See Sprint to Offer First 3 Tri-Band LTE Devices and Sprint Delays HD Voice Launch to Q2.)
Sprint has traditionally used Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum solely for offload, but the carrier now sees it as a way to achieve faster speeds through carrier aggregation for its zippier Sprint Spark blended LTE service. Euteneuer said it would also begin boosting capacity through small cells next year, something it hadn't discussed much before SoftBank Corp. acquired the carrier. (See Sprint Sparks Up Vendors for Faster 4G LTE, Sprint Plans to Add 4G LTE Urban Heft in 2014, and Sprint Has Samsung 4G LTE Small Cells: Analyst.)
"As a standalone, Clearwire had no value, but when you bundle it with other things, that's where it has value," he said. This has been something Sprint has talked up since it announced Network Vision, but it hasn't become real for the carrier until now.
Also because of its acquisition of Clearwire, Sprint is feeling confident in its spectrum position, and Euteneuer said it would not be bidding in the January Federal Communications Commission (FCC) auction for the 1900 MHz PCS H Block, instead focusing on lower band spectrum.
"We have made the decision not to move forward with the H block given where we are spectrum-wise, given the rules associated with the H block, and given our belief for the need of lower-band spectrum," Euteneuer said.
T-Mobile US Inc. has also bowed out of the auction, which means that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) could have it locked up. (See Dish Spectrum Gets Clearance for Takeoff and Sprint & Dish Slug It Out Over Spectrum.)
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading