Sprint's 800 MHz LTE rollout gaining momentum, says report

Sprint (NYSE:S) is adding FDD LTE carriers on its 800 MHz spectrum in numerous markets as part of its planned triumvirate of LTE bands, according to the S4GRU website.

In late June just prior to the operator's shutdown of its iDEN network at 800 MHz, Bob Azzi, Sprint's senior vice president of networks, said the company would begin deploying LTE on a 5x5 MHz channel (5 MHz uplink with 5 MHz downlink) in its refarmed 800 MHz spectrum during the fourth quarter. Subsequently, S4GRU said that in the late November-early December time frame it was able to track a growing number of Band 26 (800 MHz) site acceptances around the country.

S4GRU's blog highlighted a Sprint site in an unspecified market, which features a 1.25 MHz CDMA1X 800 MHz downlink carrier at Band Class 10 channel assignment 476, which equates to center frequency 862.9 MHz. "On this site, CDMA1X 800 was deployed earlier this year just prior to the Nextel iDEN 800 shutdown. But LTE 800 did not follow--until now," said the blog.

This particular site's new 5 MHz FDD LTE 800 downlink carrier is not yet ready to receive connections, but S4GRU said that frequency domain analysis suggests a downlink that equates to center frequency 866.3 MHz.

S4GRU indicated the most progress it has found on 800 MHz LTE is in the Chicago, Houston, Jacksonville, Fla., Kansas and northern Wisconsin markets. A map on its site also showed considerable 800 MHz site action in south Texas.

Sprint has said it is already offering its tri-mode Sprint Spark LTE service, which combines 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz LTE transmissions, in about 25 percent of areas within the Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Tampa, Fla., markets. The operator expects to roll out Spark to the top 100 U.S. markets during the next three years, with speeds capable of reaching 50-60 Mbps and perhaps faster thanks to carrier aggregation,

Sprint intends to have FDD LTE deployed to 200 million POPS by year-end on its 1900 MHz spectrum. In addition, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has said the company will cover 150 million POPs with FDD LTE on its 800 MHz spectrum by the end of 2014 and cover 100 million POPS with 2.5 GHz TD-LTE by then.

However, Sprint's efforts to roll out LTE on its 800 MHz frequencies in the northernmost and southernmost areas of the United States will be encumbered by International Border Exclusionary Zone restrictions with Canada and Mexico.

For more:
- see this S4GRU blog entry

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