Sprint's Saw: 16M customers have access to HD voice

LAS VEGAS--Just two months since launching nationwide HD voice service, Sprint says that 16 million customers have access to HD voice service. Speaking at the 4G World conference held here in conjunction with Super Mobility Week, Dr. John Saw, chief network officer of Sprint said that the improved voice quality offered by HD voice is taking the pressure off the carrier to offering voice over LTE service. "We want a solid VoLTE experience before we push it out," he said.

Sprint currently offers about 30 postpaid smartphones and 33 prepaid smartphones with HD voice capability, which Saw added is notable compared to the handful of VoLTE devices that are available to customers. T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) offers VoLTE across its entire LTE footprint and also offers HD Voice. AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) has launched VoLTE in some markets in the Midwest and Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) plans to deploy VoLTE nationwide in the coming weeks. Notably Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced that its' new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will support VoLTE.

Saw also said the company has 250 million POPs covered with FDD-LTE in the 800 MHz and 1900 MHz spectrum and that by year-end 100 million POPs will have TD-LTE access in the 2.5 GHz band. Saw touted the company's abundant spectrum position as a big differentiator for Sprint, noting that the company has 120 to 150 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets which means it can provision a lot of capacity to customers.

Currently every base station that Sprint is using supports both FDD-LTE and TD-LTE and Saw said that he envisions using TD-LTE for capacity and FDD-LTE for coverage.

Interestingly, Saw said he considers backhaul to be one of the biggest challenges in his network planning. "This is a challenge that is not going away," he said.  

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