Sprint (NYSE: S) announced it achieved speeds of more than 300 Mbps using the new Samsung Galaxy S7, one of the first handsets on the market able to support the operator's three-channel carrier aggregation network technology.
Three-channel carrier aggregation is a feature of LTE-Advanced that enables operators to combine together bands of spectrum to create wider channels, producing increased capacity and higher speeds on supporting devices. Sprint currently uses two-channel aggregation over 40 MHz of spectrum on select 2.5 GHz cell sites, enabling it to deliver peak speeds of more than 100 Mbps in more than 150 LTE Plus markets across the U.S.
The operator plans to use 60 MHz of spectrum when it commercially deploys three-channel carrier aggregation. Sprint has said repeatedly that it plans to leverage its high-band, 2.5 GHz spectrum as it moves toward 5G.
"Our high-band 2.5 GHz spectrum excels at moving high volumes of data at very fast speeds," CTO John Saw said recently. "And while 60 MHz of spectrum can deliver the kind of phenomenal speeds shown today, we're just getting started. With holdings of more than 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 U.S. markets, we have more capacity than any other carrier in the U.S."
Indeed, Sprint hopes that its network -- which was a longtime vulnerability -- becomes its biggest strength as it tries to regain ground lost to its fellow tier-one operators. It continues to focus on small cells in an effort to maximize its spectrum and hold down network buildout costs, and recent rumors indicate SoftBank, its Japanese parent company, may participate in the FCC's upcoming incentive auction of TV broadcasters'' 600 MHz spectrum in a move that might allow Sprint to increase its spectrum holdings.
Whether Sprint has the financial resources to complete a turnaround is unclear, however. The operator is $32 billion in debt and must make $2.3 billion in debt payments this year. But Sprint posted a solid fourth quarter of 2015. If it can continue to add subscribers and cut costs, its network may be well positioned to compete as the industry enters the 5G era.
- see this Sprint press release
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