Report: Sprint starts widespread carrier aggregation deployment in 2.5 GHz band

Sprint (NYSE: S) has started actively deploying two-carrier carrier aggregation technology on its 2.5 GHz spectrum in dozens of major markets across the country to deliver faster speeds for customers, according to an internal Sprint document posted on Reddit by a Reddit-verified Sprint employee. [click to tweet]

Sprint has said carrier aggregation in the 2.5 GHz band will be one of the key factors that sets its network apart. However, the company has not said how widespread its deployment of the technology has been or will be. In March Sprint said it would use Chicago as a showcase market for LTE Advanced technologies, including carrier aggregation.

Carrier aggregation, which is the most well-known and widely used technique of the LTE Advanced standard, bonds together noncontiguous bands of spectrum to create wider channels and produce faster speeds. Sprint has an average of 120 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in 90 of the top 100 U.S. markets and will start by bonding two 20 MHz channels together. Sprint has said by the end of this year it aims aims to fully test three-channel carrier aggregation with deployments following shortly thereafter.

Sprint would not confirm the reports on two-carrier carrier aggregation. "We're planning to talk about our carrier aggregation deployment on our earnings call," Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton told FierceWireless. The carrier will likely hold its quarterly earnings call in late July or early August. Sprint has not yet announced a date.

According to the document posted on Reddit, carrier aggregation is live in 39 markets, though it's difficult to define how many cities or towns exactly, since the list includes whole states like Colorado and New Jersey. The list includes major markets like Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

In Chicago, Sprint has promised to deploy LTE Advanced capabilities such as 8T8R (8 Transmitters 8 Receivers), multi-layer MIMO and multiple-channel carrier aggregation. The company has said that will give it the potential to increase the peak speeds a customer will experience to 100 Mbps and beyond. Sprint has said that its tri-band "Spark" LTE service can deliver peak speeds of 50-60 Mbps, and that with two-carrier carrier aggregation those peak speeds can reach 100-120 Mbps.

According to the Reddit report, there are seven devices that can currently take advantage of the two-carrier carrier aggregation: the HTC One M9, LG G4, LG G Flex II, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and the ZTE Hot Spot.

Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss said Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is the supplier of the modem chipsets that support the technology. The modems support LTE Cat. 6, which can enable 300 Mbps peak downlink speeds. Strauss noted that other chipset companies have announced modems that can support such speeds but that Qualcomm is the only one shipping them in volume right now. A Qualcomm spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For more:
- see this Reddit post
- see this S4GRU post
- see this DSL Reports article
- see this Android Police article

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