Sprint quarterly network investment doubles to $1.4b ahead of 5G

Sprint has continued advocating for its merger with T-Mobile, saying that together, they could ‘build an incredible nationwide 5G network’.

Sprint has provided an update of its 5G network build alongside its Q3 financial results, with Sprint CTO Dr John Saw saying the carrier has doubled its quarterly network investment to $1.4 billion in an effort to improve speeds, coverage, and reliability.

"We're not standing still during the merger approval process, and we've seen a number of network achievements as we prepare to launch mobile 5G in the coming months," Saw said in a blog post.

Sprint now has hundreds of 5G-ready Massive Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (Massive MIMO) radios installed and live to provide higher speeds and capacity ahead of the carrier's 5G launch.

This includes in Atlanta for this weekend's Super Bowl, with Saw saying that "recent independent crowd-sourced tests" found the telco had the fastest average download speeds around the stadium.

Sprint is still on track to launch 5G mobile services across the initial 5G markets of downtown Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington DC in the coming months, Saw said.

"With our largest network investment in years well under way, we're working hard to improve our LTE Advanced network and launch mobile 5G," the chief technology officer wrote.

"We also continue to advocate for our merger with T-Mobile, knowing that together we can build an incredible nationwide 5G network neither company could achieve on its own that reaches underserved communities, accelerates competition, and drives new levels of innovation for all US businesses and consumers."

Sprint's gigabit LTE offering is also now available in almost 300 cities, involving upgrades across 256 Quadrature Amplitude Moderation, 4x4 MIMO, and multiple carrier aggregation.

"And no, we don't label any of this 5G, because it's not," Saw said after rival telco AT&T faced criticism in January after branding devices as being 5GE.

According to Saw, Sprint has added 2.5GHz spectrum to around 75 percent of its macro sites, and added 800MHz to "thousands" of mobile sites across the nation.

Sprint now has 27,000 2.5GHz outdoor small cells on air including both mini macros and strand mounts, as well as distributing over 286,000 Magic Boxes, including the latest-generation model.

As of the end of December, Sprint had 32.6 million post-paid customers; 8.8 million prepaid customers; and 13 million wholesale and affiliate customers for a total wireless customer base of 54.5 million, down slightly from 54.51 million the previous quarter.

The carrier announced a net loss of $141 million for the third quarter and operating income of $479 million. Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation (EBITDA) was $3.1 billion, its highest Q3 adjusted EBITDA in 12 years.

One of its recent digitisation initiatives has resulted in around 30 percent of all Sprint customer care chats now being performed by chatbots.

Earlier in January, Sprint had announced completing a world-first 5G data call across 2.5GHz spectrum on a live commercial network in partnership with Nokia and Qualcomm, which it said moves 5G from the lab to the real world ahead of a first-half 2019 launch.

The trial, which took place in San Diego, made use of Massive MIMO technology, Nokia's dual-mode AirScale Massive MIMO radio, and a smartphone powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 5G modem and antenna modules with integrated RF transceiver, RF front-end, and antenna elements.

Sprint was able to stream YouTube videos, conduct Skype audio and video calls, and send and receive instant messages during the test.

During CES 2019, Sprint had confirmed that it will be launching a Samsung 5G smartphone in summer 2019, as well as unveiling the smart home small cell solution with LTE called Trebl with Magic Box.

The Samsung 5G smartphone will connect to Sprint's LTE and 5G networks, using its 2.5GHz, 1.9GHz, and 800MHz spectrum bands.

The Samsung announcement comes after Sprint last year revealed that it is working with LG on the first 5G smartphone for the US in the first half of 2019; and with Qualcomm and Chinese tech company HTC to develop a 5G mobile smart hub to be released in the US during the first half of 2019.

Sprint also used CES 2019 to announce that Greenville, South Carolina, will see its first smart city build-out based on both its Curiosity Internet of Things (IoT) platform and mobile 5G network connectivity; that it will be constructing a smart vehicle test track in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, which will also utilise Curiosity IoT, 5G, and micro-positioning tech; and that it is launching "precision mapping technology" with Mapbox, again using its Curiosity IoT and later its 5G network.

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