SoftBank execs check out Qualcomm's NASCAR small cell test

Tammy Parker, FierceWirelessTech

AVONDALE, Ariz.--When Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) asked if I'd be interested in hopping on a plane to Phoenix some 24 hours after returning home from the Mobile World Congress trade show in Spain, I hesitated. But I relented because I knew the trip would give me an up-close glimpse at the vendor's small cell network that it had deployed over Sprint's (NYSE:S) 2.5 GHz spectrum for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

I'm glad I made the trip, as I learned that the hyper-dense TD-LTE small cell network Qualcomm deployed at Phoenix International Raceway was attracting interest from more than just journalists. It turns out that executives from SoftBank, Sprint's majority investor, were also on the ground checking out the small cell test network and asking lots of questions, according to Patrick Costello, Qualcomm senior director, North America business development.

Sprint has long had a small cell strategy, starting with its CDMA femtocell rollouts, and small cells are part of the carrier's evolving HetNet strategy. However, Sprint has not made any public commitments regarding the specific technologies demonstrated by Qualcomm in Phoenix.

In a press statement, Iyad Tarazi, Sprint vice president of network, said simply: "Small cells will play a critical role in Sprint's network strategy."

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see whether SoftBank's keen interest in Qualcomm's NASCAR technology test has any impact on Sprint's long-term HetNet plans.

Do you want to learn more about the small cell test? Click here to view FierceWirelessTech's slideshow from the NASCAR technology trial.--Tammy