Sprint CTO embraces small cells, but tempers enthusiasm

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) believes the deployment of small cells in its network will help, but does not view them as an instant panacea for adding capacity, according to a senior executive. 

Speaking yesterday at GigaOM's Mobilize conference, CTO Stephen Bye said that small cells are "another tool in the toolbox. We look at small cells and [heterogeneous networks] as one piece of the solution." However, he noted that small cells need power sources, backhaul and need to be integrated into the network.

"In theory it looks great," he said. "The challenge is the physical deployment," adding that "oftentimes that component of deployment overshadows" the actual launch of small cells. Bye also took the opportunity to take a jab at Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T), as well as cable companies, which Sprint has argued control too much of the backhaul market. "We would like to see far more competition in backhaul," he said. 

As part of the carrier's Network Vision architecture, Sprint has said it will start launching picocells during the fourth quarter of this year in public venues such as stadiums and hospitals. The carrier also plans to replace its distributed antenna systems (DAS) with picocells, which Sprint intends to launch outdoors in 2013 and 2014. Sprint already counts 950,000 femtocells on its network.

Bye also touched on Sprint's relationship with Clearwire (NASDAQ:CLWR), which is building a TDD-LTE network that Sprint plans to use next year as a way to offload traffic from its own FDD-LTE network. Clearwire expects to deploy 5,000 LTE cell sites in areas of network congestion by the middle of next year. Bye said Sprint is encouraged by the TDD-LTE ecosystem that Clearwire is building around the 2.5 GHz band. He also reiterated that Sprint devices will be able to interoperate between the two LTE networks and that Sprint is working with Clearwire to ensure that the handoff between the networks is seamless and delivers a solid experience for consumers.

For more:
- see this GigaOM article

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