Sprint (NYSE: S) will use Chicago as a showcase market for LTE Advanced technologies, according to the carrier, as it expands its investment in the city and the surrounding areas.
In an announcement with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel yesterday, Sprint said that it will deploy LTE Advanced capabilities in Chicago first, then elsewhere. Sprint plans to install hundreds of new Spark-capable cell sites in Chicago as part of a $45 million investment in the area between now and the end of 2016.
Chicago has been something of a test bed market for Sprint over the years, and was among the first markets to get Sprint's tri-band Spark LTE service.
According to Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton, in Chicago Sprint will be using LTE Advanced capabilities such as 8T8R (8 Transmitters 8 Receivers), multi-layer MIMO and multiple-channel carrier aggregation. She said that will give Sprint the potential to increase the peak speeds a customer will experience to 100 Mbps and beyond. The company already has deployed 8T8R radio heads in Chicago and other markets but carrier aggregation will be new.
Norton declined to provide a specific timeframe for the deployment of the new network features in Chicago or other markets, but told FierceWireless that "while Chicago will be first, we will be rolling out LTE Advanced technologies like carrier aggregation in other markets."
At first, the carrier aggregation in Chicago will be two-channel carrier aggregation in Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum (melding together two 20 MHz channels for faster speeds) but by the end of this year Sprint aims to fully test three-channel carrier aggregation with deployments following shortly thereafter.
As part of Sprint's investment plan, Sprint said it will bring more than 300 new jobs to neighborhoods throughout Chicago. In the entire Chicagoland area--which includes suburbs such as Aurora, Rosemont, Schaumburg and Gurnee--Sprint plans to add more than 540 jobs and will open more than 115 stores. Sprint said the jobs are expected to include retail, customer service, network and corporate functions.
Further, Sprint has also created a Chicago-specific team to be led by a general manager who will focus on the needs of Chicago's wireless users. Sprint said the team will work to improve customer service, simplify the purchasing experience, enhance the network, work with local community organizations and sponsor more Chicago programs and events.
Interestingly, Sprint was hit with an outage in the Chicago area last week that affected its voice and text messaging services.
According to network testing firm RootMetrics, Sprint was the No. 2 carrier in Chicago in the second half of 2014 in terms of overall performance, behind Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ).
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