Sprint preps New York City for 5G

Sprint is deploying 5G-ready Massive MIMO radios across New York City, as well as attaching thousands of indoor and outdoor small cells to city infrastructure.

Sprint announced that it is now the fastest mobile carrier across New York City, providing customers with access to its gigabit-speed LTE services after upgrading its network in preparation for 5G services going live next year.

Sprint said it now has the fastest LTE download speeds in Manhattan, according to RootMetrics, and the highest data reliability, according to Nielsen.

Across both New York City and the Tri-State area, Sprint said it is continuing to add more cell sites and upgrades to its existing sites to make use of its spectrum holdings across the 800MHz, 1.9GHz, and 2.5GHz bands.

Its LTE-Advanced upgrade program has also seen it add thousands of indoor and outdoor small cells across the greater metro area, making use of city infrastructure like street lights and phone poles.

Sprint is also deploying 4x4 Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output (MIMO), 256 quadrature amplitude moderation (QAM), transmission mode 9 (TM9) beam forming, and two- and three-channel carrier aggregation to increase speeds, capacity, and coverage.

"In addition, Sprint is enhancing its upload speeds with capabilities such as uplink carrier aggregation, 64 QAM, and high-performance user equipment (HPUE)," Sprint said.

As a result, Sprint's 5G rollout is "well under way", it said.

Alongside its LTE Advanced upgrades, it is also deploying 5G ready Massive MIMO radios across New York City ahead of launching a 5G mobile service there in the first half of 2019.

"Massive MIMO ... dramatically improves the capacity of Sprint's LTE Advanced network with equipment that is software upgradable to 5G," the carrier said.

"Sprint's 64T64R Massive MIMO radios support split mode, enabling the company to offer LTE and 5G simultaneously on the same radio. Initial results from early deployments show Massive MIMO is driving a 4x average increase in capacity and speed, with peak increases of up to 10x over LTE."

Sprint CTO Dr John Saw had told ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in February that his carrier has the best 5G spectrum, with Sprint choosing its initial six 5G markets of Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston due to their high traffic and its spectrum holdings.

Sprint in May added New York City, Phoenix, and Kansas City to its 5G rollout roadmap.

The carrier earlier this month announced that it is now providing more than 225 cities with gigabit-speed LTE, calling its network upgrades the stepping stones to 5G.

As well as New York City, included in the gigabit-capable cities are Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Miami, Indianapolis, and Phoenix.

According to Sprint, it has activated more small cells in the last six months than it has in the last two years, with more than 21,000 2.5GHz outdoor small cells now live, including 15,000 strand-mount small cells on cable infrastructure and 6,500 on street mini macros.

Sprint has also distributed more than 264,000 units of its Magic Box -- of which the carrier unveiled an updated version during Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) in September -- across the US.

"With regards to the 5G plans, we are very well on track," Saw said at the start of November.

"The tool that we're going to use to build our 5G network is using Massive MIMO. And the 5G spectrum that we're going to be leveraging is our 2.5 gigahertz spectrum. So we have restarted building our Massive MIMO sites ... so 5G, for us, once we have these Massive MIMO sites built, will be a software and line-cut upgrade only, so no tower climbs needed.

"In a couple of months, we will add the 5G software. We will be able to enable both LTE and 5G simultaneously on the same sites."

T-Mobile, which Sprint is aiming to merge with next year, is targeting Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, and Dallas as its initial 30 5G deployment cities.

Earlier this week, Sprint also announced that it is working with Qualcomm and Chinese tech company HTC to develop a 5G mobile smart hub to be released in the first half of 2019.

The device will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform using the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, and will enable both 5G and gigabit LTE across multiple devices.

Sprint had previously revealed in August that it is working with LG on the first 5G smartphone for the US for the first half of 2019, following the launch of the carrier's 5G network at the beginning of next year.

At the time, LG Electronics North America CEO William Cho said the tech company's nearly 20-year partnership with Sprint would expand, with Sprint's 5G experts to partner with LG in designing the phone.

"LG has done tremendous work developing technical designs that enable us to be among the first movers in mobile 5G," Saw added in August.

"Today's announcement brings us one step closer to putting a beautifully designed advanced 5G smartphone in our customers' hands."

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