Sprint inks deal with CommScope for 'extensive deployment' of LTE/Wi-Fi small cells

CommScope said Sprint (NYSE: S) has committed to "an extensive deployment" of its small cells in small to medium-sized business locations. And the deal appears to signal Sprint's eagerness to expand its presence in the managed Wi-Fi market.

The deployment is part of Sprint's network densification plan, which the company continues to pursue both for LTE services and in advance of coming 5G technologies. CommScope markets the small cells as a way for small and medium-sized offices and retail locations to provide improved wireless services for employees, visitors, shoppers and guests.

The cells are based on Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) FSM small and Qualcomm VIVE Wi-Fi chipsets and support both 2.5 GHz TD-LTE and 802.11ac dual-band, dual-concurrent Wi-Fi "in a cost-effective, power efficient and compact form factor," according to CommScope.

Small cells are crucial part of Sprint's strategy to improve its network while cutting some of the costs associated with traditional macrocells. "When you're poorer than the rest (of the carriers), when you have less money, you're going to deploy your network" in different ways, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said during a conference call with media representatives following the carrier's quarterly earnings release this morning.

"We're a lot smarter in how we're deploying our network," Claure continued, saying the carrier has begun to employ a "site by site" strategy. "We're not going to the tower companies and signing a 20-year agreement if there's no need."

Because the small cells support Wi-Fi, they will enable Sprint "to provide managed Wi-Fi hotspot services to enterprises such as retail and restaurant chains," according to CommScope's press release. That should help Sprint compete more effectively with hotspot providers such as Boingo, Towerstream, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and even Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) in the managed Wi-Fi segment. It would also help Sprint compete against AT&T (NYSE: T), which joined the managed Wi-Fi market in 2008 with the acquisition of Wayport for roughly $275 million.

"The CommScope S1000 small cell… is a highly cost-effective way for us to give our customers even faster data speeds indoors," said Jay Bluhm, Sprint's vice president of network development and engineering, in a press release. "Femtos are an important part of our densification and optimization strategy, enabling us to more efficiently support new services and meet the growing demand for data."

Sprint representatives were not immediately available to respond to inquiries from FierceWireless regarding the carrier's plans for managed Wi-Fi.

For more:
- see this CommScope press release

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