On path to gigabit LTE, Sprint moving download/upload configuration to 3-1 to support 12-1 traffic ratio

Sprint's Ron Marquardt presents at the 5G North America show.

AUSTIN, Texas—Sprint’s VP of technology said the carrier is in the process of tweaking its network to align it more closely with actual customer usage. Specifically, Sprint’s Ron Marquardt said the carrier is changing its download/upload configuration to 3 to 1, to support a 12-to-1 traffic ratio.

In a presentation here at the 5G North America trade conference, Marquardt explained that Sprint’s upload/download network configuration was previously 2-1, largely because of the carrier’s now-shuttered WiMAX network. He said that, because Sprint shut down its WiMAX network, the carrier is now able to adjust that ratio to more closely match how Sprint’s customers actually use the carrier’s network. He said that Sprint’s customers download roughly 10 to 12 times the amount of data that they upload, and that Sprint is adjusting its network to more closely match that usage ratio.

“Now we’re free to do it how we want,” Marquardt said, explaining that Sprint was unable to change that ratio while it continued to maintain its WiMAX network.

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Sprint shut down its WiMAX network earlier this year after a court briefly postponed the action. Two nonprofits, Mobile Beacon and Mobile Citizen, sued Sprint last year to prevent the shutdown, though in February a court allowed the shutdown to proceed.

Most wireless users download far more data than they upload, but Marquardt’s comments are noteworthy in that they give a clear view into the actual ratio between upload and download usage on a cellular network.

Marquardt’s comments were part of a presentation he made detailing Sprint’s move toward 5G network technology. He said that this year Sprint is working to introduce 1 Gbps speeds onto its LTE network in advance of a 5G launch that’s currently planned for 2019. Specifically, he said Sprint will speed up its LTE network mainly through the introduction of three-carrier aggregation technology. Such technology essentially allows Sprint to bond three channels of 20 MHz transmissions together, thus speeding up its customers’ download speeds.

However, Sprint isn’t the only wireless operator that has promised to offer 1 Gbps LTE speeds this year. T-Mobile and AT&T have also promised gigabit LTE offerings this year, largely through the application of carrier aggregation technologies.

Marquardt also outlined Sprint’s previously announced 5G plans. He reiterated that the operator plans to launch mobile 5G network technology by 2019 in partnership with SoftBank and Qualcomm. He added that Sprint’s move to 5G is not simply another network migration like the carrier’s move from 2G to 3G and from 3G to 4G.

“It’s going to be so much more than that,” he said, pointing to the faster speeds and added flexibility that 5G will enable. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Article updated May 17 to clarify the details of Sprint's changes.

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