Sprint eyes mobile 5G network launch for first half of 2019

5G could lead to an increase in customers' data plans, Sprint's CEO said.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor
File photo (CNET/CBS Interactive)

Sprint plans to launch its mobile 5G network in the first half of 2019, the carrier revealed Friday on its quarterly earnings conference call with investors. It could make the fourth largest carrier in the US the first to launch a nationwide mobile 5G network.

Sprint said its "strong" spectrum assets will allow it to buildout a network that will differentiate itself from the competition. Sprint will use its 2.5 GHz spectrum frequency airwaves, and deploy 40,000 outdoor small cell solutions, 15,000 strand mounted small cells through the company's partnerships with cable companies, and one million Sprint "Magic Boxes," to cell towers.

"We're working with Qualcomm and network and device manufacturers in order to launch the first truly mobile [5G] network in the United States by the first half of 2019," Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said. "This development will put Sprint at the forefront of technology innovation on par with other leading carriers around the world...We believe our next-gen network will truly differentiate Sprint over the next couple of years."


Claure said 5G could give Sprint opportunity to raise prices on its unlimited data plan, because customers will want to pay more for faster speeds. Sprint currently charges $50 to $60 per month for unlimited pricing, and Claure hinted pricing could rise to competitors' levels in the $70 to $80 range.

AT&T and Verizon plan to launch 5G service in some cities in the US this year. However, the 5G service will first be offered as fixed in-place wireless, rather than through cell towers. T-Mobile, the third-largest carrier Sprint tried to merge with last year, will start its 5G network rollout in 2019.

5G promises customers faster connection than 4G with low-latency speed up to 1 GB/s. Faster connections are likely to enable a host of business applications and smarter Internet of things deployments.

See also: Comparing unlimited plans from T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T

Sprint also reported better than expected Q3 financials Friday. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company reported net income of $7.2 billion, or $1.79 per share, compared to a loss of $479 million, or 12 cents per share, the year prior. Sprint said its net income included $7.1 billion of non-cash benefit from tax reform.

Sprint posted net operating revenue of $8.24 billion, down 3.6 percent from the previous year.

Sprint said total wireless net additions were 385,000 for the quarter, compared to 564,000 a year ago. Sprint added 184,000 phone net additions, its tenth consequtive quarter of additions.

Sprint shares were up nearly 5 percent on Friday.

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