Sprint expects to see phones supporting High Performance User Equipment (HPUE) this year and by 2018, all of its postpaid phones with Band 41 will support HPUE, CTO John Saw said during the operator’s third-quarter conference call with analysts Tuesday.
Sprint revealed last year that it expected Samsung to be the first with a HPUE-capable handset this year, with more widespread support to come. Sprint described HPUE as a breakthrough innovation that will expand its 2.5 GHz spectrum by up to 30% to nearly match its mid-band spectrum at 1.9 GHz, including indoors where most of the wireless traffic occurs.
“I think at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, there will be more announcements about phones supporting HPUE,” Saw said during the conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “We are extremely excited. We expect to see phones this year and by 2018, we expect all of our postpaid phones with Band 41 to support HPUE.”
Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure also said the company is looking forward to begin field testing massive MIMO on its 2.5 GHz spectrum that will enable Sprint to deliver gigabit per second speeds. What’s unique to Sprint and 2.5 GHz is that massive MIMO is impractical on most other bands held by carriers today due to the sheer size of antennas and especially lower bands, he said.
“Generally, the lower the spectrum band, the bigger the antenna and vice versa, which is a strategic advantage to Sprint by greatly expanding the potential structure and locations where we can deploy these smaller antennas,” Claure said. “We believe that 2.5 spectrum is well-suited as a sub 6 gigahertz band for 5G as well given the very wide channels and the fact that is is TDD, which is a leading candidate for 5G as well.”
Sprint is the only operator in the U.S. to pursue a TDD-LTE strategy. HPUE is designed to improve the performance of TDD-LTE Band 41 networks around the world. Sprint co-led the development of HPUE in conjunction with the Global TDD LTE Initiative (GTI) and companies like China Mobile, SoftBank, Qualcomm Technologies, Samsung, ZTE, Broadcom, MediaTek, Skyworks Solutions, Alcatel, Motorola, LG, Qorvo and others to get HPUE finalized.
Claure said Sprint continued to use a number of tools to densify and optimize its network. It deployed 200 small cells in Manhattan and saw the average download speed double across the city. To prepare for this weekend’s Super Bowl in Houston, Sprint installed more than 100 small cells in and around NRG Stadium.
While Sprint has made great strides in closing the network gap with its rivals, analysts remain skeptical of its ability to turn the financial health of the company around. Sprint’s net loss of 12 cents per share was worse than analysts’ estimates of 9 cents per share, CNBC reported, and postpaid ARPU of $57.12 was down 5.3% year over year, also missing analysts’ forecasts.