Sprint touts 33% increase in network speeds over last year

Sprint attributed its faster network speeds to its rollout of 2.5 GHz spectrum.

Sprint touted fresh data from Oookla indicating its average download speed has increased 33% in the last year—the latest indication that the network gap between the four major U.S. wireless continues to narrow.

That gap hasn’t closed entirely, however.

Data from Ookla’s crowdsourced Speedtest app shows that Sprint’s average download speeds increased from 40% to more than 100% over the last year in “more than 25 of 99 top markets,” the nation’s fourth-largest mobile network operator said. Users in Houston saw a 43% increase in network speeds during the third quarter compared to the same period a year ago, reaching 22 Mbps per second, while customers in the metropolitan Los Angeles area saw their download speeds increase 55%.

The key to those faster speeds is the rollout of 2.5 GHz spectrum, the carrier said.

“The more 2.5 GHz spectrum we deploy, the more our data performance and speeds improve,” wrote Gunther Ottendorfer, Sprint’s chief operating officer of technology, in a blog post. “Our LTE Plus Densification and Optimization toolkit includes technologies such as multiple carrier aggregation, beamforming, and HPUE, along with small cell solutions such as Sprint Magic Box, airpoles, and strand mounts. This broad toolkit enables us to quickly roll out targeted, capital-efficient capacity in our network to improve service and meet customers' growing demand for unlimited data.”

Data speeds will continue to accelerate as Sprint launches Massive MIMO radios, Ottendorfer noted. Sprint is working with Ericsson as it prepares to deploy the radios, which the carrier said can provide a tenfold increase in network capacity.

Sprint still has some significant work to do to match the network speeds of its larger rivals, however. Ookla said last month that the carrier had the lowest “speed score” of the four major carriers at 15.39, trailing T-Mobile (23.17), Verizon (21.13) and AT&T (20.05) during the first half of 2017.

Ookla's first-half data was gleaned from consumer tests using its Speedtest app. Ookla said roughly 3 million devices were used to perform more than 14 million tests during the first half of the year.