Sprint and partners Qualcomm Technologies and Motorola Mobility on Wednesday evening showed of what they believe to be the first U.S. deployment of Gigabit Class LTE on a live commercial network. The demo occurred during an NBA game at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, where the Toronto Raptors beat the New Orleans Pelicans 94-87.
Courtside, Sprint and its partners set up an indoor base station system, similar to an outdoor base station set-up, inside the stadium with three-channel carrier aggregation (CA), which Sprint has turned up in 100 markets, including New Orleans. They used 60 MHz of Sprint’s 2.5 GHz spectrum combined with 4X4 MIMO and 256-QAM higher order modulation to achieve Category 16 LTE download data speeds on a TDD network.
The pre-commercial Motorola device—a flagship smartphone based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 mobile platform with an integrated Snapdragon X16 LTE modem—is still under wraps and its release date is to be determined, but it was made available to Sprint for demonstration purposes. The device has all the proper antenna and band configurations to support Gigabit Class LTE, including support for High Performance User Equipment (HPUE), a handset-based technology that has the ability to extend Sprint's coverage by up to 30%, including indoors.
Last week at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain, Sprint demonstrated 1 Gbps Class performance over 60 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum using gear from Ericsson. It also demonstrated with Nokia how Massive MIMO can boost cell capacity by up to eight times compared to 4G LTE using 2.5 GHz TDD-LTE spectrum with 64T64R.
But to make things more interesting, Sprint wanted to demonstrate the Gigabit technology in a packed arena, similar to past demos, according to CTO John Saw. “This is one of the proof points,” beyond just showing technology in a booth in Barcelona.
The rollout of Gigabit Class LTE on the Sprint LTE Plus network will be done gradually as opposed to all at once, Saw said. Sprint plans to use its 2.5 GHz spectrum to offer Gigabit Class LTE service in high-traffic locations across the country. Gigabit Class performance will give customers the chance to experience things like immersive 360-degree video and virtual reality, connected cloud computing, rich entertainment and instant apps on the Sprint LTE Plus network.
“For us, Gigabit LTE is less about the peak speeds,” said Günther Ottendorfer, COO, Technology, at Sprint. “It is about the capacity of the cell,” providing better reliability and throughput for customers when they need it.
Sprint also notes that with Massive MIMO, it has the ability to push capacity well beyond the 1 Gbps range to 3-6 Gbps per sector.
Qualcomm recently participated in a Gigabit commercial rollout with Telstra in Australia, but that service used a hotspot by NetGear as opposed to a smartphone like the one used in Sprint’s demo and Telstra’s network is FDD, not TDD based like Sprint’s.
Sprint has a history of using sporting events to demonstrate what it can do. Last summer, it demonstrated millimeter wave technology at the Copa America soccer games and also conducted 3 CA demos at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and at Soldier Field in Chicago last year.