Sprint's Bye: '2014 is the year'

LAS VEGAS--Sprint (NYSE:S) CTO Stephen Bye said that 2014 "is the year" for the nation's No. 3 wireless carrier. He said Sprint this year will complete its Network Vision LTE network upgrade and modernization project, and that it would roll out its high-speed "Sprint Spark" service to at least 100 million POPs.

sprint john saw and stephen bye

Saw, left, and Bye

In comments during a press event here on the sidelines of the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Bye acknowledged that Sprint has had its share of problems during the past year or so. The carrier's Network Vision network upgrade program was delayed, partially due to "vendor execution," and Sprint spent much of 2013 working to catch up to its original rollout timeline. Moreover, Sprint has acknowledged that its network upgrade project has affected service for some customers.

"We're still working through some of that," Bye said.

But Bye said that Sprint likely will complete its Network Vision program relatively close to its original target date, though he declined to say exactly what that date is. He did say that Sprint expects to wrap up Network Vision this year, bringing LTE service to 250 million POPs and improving its CDMA network in the process.

Further, thanks to Sprint's acquisition of Clearwire, the carrier is working to build out TD-LTE technology on Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum licenses, which Bye said would give the carrier a significant leg up on its competition in terms of network speeds. John Saw, Sprint's senior vice president for technical architecture, said the combination of LTE on Sprint's 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz licenses--tri-mode service that Sprint calls Spark--would provide real-world speeds of 12-15 Mbps. Saw said those speeds will increase as Sprint works to expand its Spark deployment across additional channels.

"The value of those three (800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz) is greater than the sum of the parts," Bye said, adding that Sprint Spark will expand to 100 U.S. cities by 2016.

And as for devices, Sprint executives promised that virtually all of Sprint's new devices in the coming months would support its Spark service at 800 MHz, 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz. And Bye pointed out that Sprint could benefit from global economies of scale since its parent SoftBank, as well as China Mobile, are deploying LTE on 2.5 GHz.

Interestingly, Bye said that Sprint is already in the process of refarming some of its CDMA EV-DO services on its 1900 MHz spectrum for LTE. He said the carrier is refarming some unused 5x5 MHz EV-DO channels to LTE in an effort to improve and reinforce its LTE network.

The issue is critical for Sprint, which continues to report relatively sluggish quarterly subscriber results. Last year, Japan's SoftBank purchased a controlling interest in Sprint, and Sprint acquired Clearwire. And Sprint turned off its 800 MHz iDEN network in order to use those radio waves for its LTE service. In 2014, the carrier has said it will boost its marketing as its puts the finishing touches on its Network Vision project in an effort to rekindle interest in its brand and counter the success of rival T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS), whose lTE network now covers 209 million POPs.

Related Articles:
Sprint kicks off Framily, a group-based calling plan
Sprint MVNO Ting to add support for Sprint's tri-mode LTE 'Spark' service
SoftBank is lighting a fire under Sprint- I'll be waiting for the results
Sprint's Hesse: Spark tri-mode LTE service could eventually provide real-world speeds of 150-180 Mbps