Sprint announced the launch of its "LTE Plus" network across the New York metropolitan area, claiming it has doubled the speed and capacity of more than 900 2.5 GHz cell sites in the market since the beginning of the year.
Sprint's LTE Plus combines transmissions in three bands of spectrum -- 2.5 GHz, 1.9 GHz and 800 MHz -- and can deliver speeds in excess of 100 Mbps on supporting devices. Sprint said in January the offering was available in 150 markets across the country, and it has since been extended to more than 190 regions.
"Our 2.5 GHz spectrum excels at moving high volumes of data at very fast speeds," Sprint CTO John Saw said in a prepared statement. "And our deep 2.5 GHz holdings give us more capacity than any other carrier in the U.S. This is a tremendous advantage, allowing us to keep adding the capacity and speed needed to serve New Yorkers' demand for data now and well into the future."
The announcement underscores Sprint's ongoing effort to maximize its spectrum holdings via LTE even as some rivals move ambitiously toward 5G. Jay Bluhm, Sprint's VP of network planning, said earlier this week that the carrier is taking a "wait and see" approach to 5G, noting that "there's a lot in 4G and LTE Advanced still to be had" to address ever-increasing data traffic on the carrier's network.
Sprint's network traffic has increased 85 percent year over year, Bluhm said at the Competitive Carriers Association's Mobile Carriers Show, and is on pace to triple by 2020. The operator is leveraging LTE Advanced "optimization" technologies such as carrier aggregation and beamforming to meet that demand, he said.
Sprint's network strategy stems at least in part from its ongoing financial woes. While its spectrum holdings are believed to be worth more than $115 billion, the beleaguered carrier owes more than $10 billion that will come due by the end of 2020, and Sprint has to make $2.3 billion in debt payments this year. It recently said it will raise roughly $2.2 billion by selling some equipment at its cell towers to a new entity, and then leasing it back under a model similar to its handset-leasing structure.
As Sprint struggles to make ends meet through complex financial transactions, it will continue to leverage its high-frequency spectrum as fully as possible, CFO Tarek Robbiati said recently.
"The most efficient spectrum for high-capacity networks is high-frequency spectrum, so the sort of spectrum we have, 2.5," Robbiati said last month. "And there's a simple engineering law that governs this: It's that higher frequency spectrum is more efficient to handle very large capacity of traffic, and that's a world we're moving toward with 5G."
- see this Sprint press release
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