Sprint testing Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent indoor small cells

Sprint (NYSE:S) has received LTE-enabled small cells from its infrastructure vendors Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU) and Samsung and is testing the devices for planned deployment.

"We are currently testing indoor picos for both vendors. We haven't announced a deployment timeline yet," Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter told FierceWirelessTech.

She added that the picocells are designed for use on Sprint's FDD LTE network in the 1.9 GHz band. 

Michael Soper, networking and mobility analyst at Technology Business Research, issued a commentary last week regarding Samsung's growth prospects and noted the South Korean vendor "continues to penetrate new markets with its LTE infrastructure, while aiming to expand its presence within existing accounts through small cells and other technologies such as carrier aggregation." He also noted that during 2013's third quarter, Samsung "continued rolling out small cells for Sprint, for which it supplies LTE RAN."

Sprint has long touted small cells' intended role in its massive multiyear Network Vision initiative, which relies upon Samsung, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson (NASDAQ:ERIC) network infrastructure gear. The operator announced in August 2012 that it would deploy Alcatel-Lucent's lightRadio metrocell architecture gear as well as Samsung's small cell gear throughout its footprint.

Though Soper told Light Reading that "Samsung is providing LTE small cells for outdoor and indoor use" by Sprint, the operator has long said that its initial focus would be on indoor, rather than outdoor, small cell applications. When Samsung and Sprint announced their small cell partnership, they said small cells will become part of Sprint's heterogeneous network, or HetNet, targeting "high-traffic indoor areas and dense public venues such as stadiums, conference centers, office complexes, hotels, and airports."

In an interview with FierceWirelessTech last year, Iyad Tarazi, now Sprint's vice president, network technology development and integration, observed that outdoor deployments are tricky because they require more interference management and higher power and face additional challenges related to right of way and backhaul. "There will be some places where we will deploy outdoor earlier, but I don't expect the mass market for outdoor to arrive before 2014," he said.

Though Sprint is currently testing LTE picocells from Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung, the operator has long been a leader in 3G femtocell deployments, having rolled out more than 1 million CDMA residential femtos and 10,000 enterprise femtos as of Aug. 1, 2013.

It is unclear what the operator's plans are for LTE-enabled femtos, but the overall LTE femto market is expected to ramp up over the next few years. Sales of femtos for FDD-based LTE will expand at a 76 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017, according to a fresh study from Infonetics Research.

"Sales of 3G femtocells still dominate the market, despite the focus of vendors on 4G," said Richard Webb, the firm's directing analyst for microwave and carrier Wi-Fi. The global 2G/3G/4G residential and enterprise femto equipment market grew 4 percent sequentially in 1Q13 to $115 million, driven by LTE femto sales.

For more:
- see this Light Reading article
- see this Infonetics release

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