Sprint touts LTE Plus network amid more than 800 layoffs and concerns over transition to small cells

Sprint (NYSE:S) said it has doubled the number of markets in which it offers "LTE Plus" and cited recent Nielsen data indicating its network is faster than those of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. And the beleaguered carrier criticized some other network-measurement methods used by its competitors.

Sprint unveiled its LTE Plus Network in November in a rebranding effort referring to its carrier aggregation and beamforming technology deployments. LTE Plus combines transmissions in three bands of spectrum -- 2.5 GHz, 1.9 GHz, and 800 MHz -- and the carrier claims it doubles its network capacity and speed, delivering speeds in excess of 100 Mbps on supporting devices.

LTE Plus was announced in 77 "major" markets across the country and has since expanded to more than 150 areas. The company said an analysis of fresh data from Nielsen Mobile Performance (NMP), which uses an app to continually monitor network performance on users' phones, provides evidence that its new network outperformed its competitors' networks in the fourth quarter of 2015.

NMP's data is based on 75 million "download events" during that timeframe, Sprint said. The carrier also argued against the network measurement methods its competitors often use. Sprint said that Ookla, which is often cited by T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), doesn't take into account the throttling that accompanies the Binge On service, and it only records data when users proactively conduct a test. And Sprint said data from Root Metrics, from which Verizon (NYSE: VZ) sources its network performance claims, often indicates there's little difference in network speeds in many particular networks.

"Yes, Verizon does hold the most #1 RootScore Awards, but what they aren't telling you is the fact that #2, #3 and #4 are hot on their heels, and in many cases the difference between #1 and #4 is literally indiscernible," Sprint CTO John Saw wrote in a blog post. "T-Mobile may currently have made their highway faster (per their Ookla-based marketing claims), but with the introduction of Binge On we see that cars on their highway are moving at slower speeds. All those multi-lane highways and nowhere to go because they put in speed bumps."

Sprint continued to push its network message with a new advertisement.

Meanwhile, analysts continued to question Sprint's reported plans for a major network transition, focusing primarily on small cells and moving away from traditional macrocells. In a blog post, iGR Research called Sprint's plan "Network Suicide," opining that reports paint "a very scary future indeed for Sprint."

New Street Research echoed iGR's concerns. "If we gain confidence that this time is different and they really are able to executive on this plan, we would be more inclined to be positive on the equity; however, the degree of difficulty is high, and they have a long way to go, both in terms of delivering on the plan and in regaining our confidence," New Street wrote.

In other news, Sprint has laid off 829 employees at its Overland Park, Kansas, office, over the last three months, the Kansas City Star reported last Friday. The layoffs are part of a broader effort to save the struggling carrier as much as $2.5 billion.

For more:
- see this Sprint blog post

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