Sprint sparks Nokia's network resurgence

The inclusion of Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Solutions and Networks as one of the project vendors for Sprint's (NYSE:S) Spark initiative represents a tremendous win for the infrastructure vendor, which secured an LTE partnership with its second Tier 1 U.S. operator and now has TD-LTE contracts on every continent.

As part of its Spark initiative, Sprint will deploy TD-LTE equipment in its 2.5 GHz band from vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU), Samsung and NSN, but none from long-time partner Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC), which won a seven-year network management deal from Sprint in 2009 and is a primary vendor on the carrier's Network Vision upgrade project. The other two Network Vision vendors are Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung.

Rick Corker, Nokia

Corker (Source: NSN)

"We've been working a long time with Sprint in terms of defining their requirements for the network, how we can maximize the utilization of spectrum assets they have in the 2.5 GHz space. It's been a long process," Rick Corker, president of North America for NSN, told FierceWirelessTech.

He noted that NSN will supply Sprint with LTE Advanced-ready Flexi Multiradio 10 base stations, plus its NetAct 8 network management platform as well as project management and network optimization services.

Until now, NSN's most notable LTE win in the United States was for the T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) FDD LTE network.

Sprint Spark combines numerous technologies, including carrier aggregation and 8x8 MIMO, to achieve better LTE performance. The initiative will employ the operator's FDD LTE network in its 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum and its planned TD-LTE network in its 2.5 GHz spectrum and will rely upon end-user devices that actively shift from one band to another, depending upon the speed needed for whatever application is in use. By employing intra-band carrier aggregation in the 2.5 GHz band, Sprint expects to enable peak downlink speeds reaching at least 50-60 Mbps in that band.

During a lab demo this week at its innovation center in Burlingame, Calif., Sprint achieved 1.3 Gbps on a single cell using 60 MHz of spectrum, Corker said. "The really important thing here is the amount of throughput we can generate on a single cell site. That will allow higher data speeds to a larger number of subscribers," he added.

Sprint said 100 million people will have access to all three of its spectrum bands by year-end 2014, and the carrier intends to roll out Spark across some 100 large U.S. cities during the next three years. The first markets with limited availability of Sprint Spark are Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Tampa.

FierceWirelessTech asked Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter whether it would be correct to assume that Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung will place their own 2.5 GHz radio heads on the Network Vision sites they have built out, while NSN will place its 2.5 GHz radio heads on Network Vision sites built out by Ericsson. "We haven't announced which vendors have which markets," she replied.

According to Corker, "This is an overlay technology on top of Sprint's Network Vision deployment, so it's feasible that they could deploy NSN technology on any site at the end of the day."

The HTC One max, LG G2, Samsung Galaxy Mega and Samsung Galaxy S4 mini will be Sprint's first tri-band phones with active multi-band handoff capability. However, Schlageter noted that "none of the handsets supports carrier aggregation today."

Years ago, NSN was slated to supply WiMAX equipment to Sprint and Clearwire but lost the gig upon shifting its focus toward LTE. However, NSN has been supplying subscriber data management and other core platforms to Sprint for quite awhile and has some legacy CDMA business with the carrier. NSN also inherited some of Clearwire's WiMAX business via the acquisition of Motorola's WiMAX assets.

For more:
- see this Sprint release
- see this GigaOM article
- see this PCMag article

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