Sprint touts network upgrades in Chicago, including launch of Spark LTE service

Sprint (NYSE:S) indicated that its Sprint Spark tri-mode LTE service is up and running Chicago, and the carrier touted the network improvements it has made in the market, in what could be a prelude to a wider marketing campaign about its network.

In a press release, the carrier noted that Spark is now available in the Chicagoland area. The carrier also said it replaced its 3G CDMA network equipment there to improve coverage as well as call and data quality, actions that are part of its nationwide Network Vision network upgrade project. Sprint has said Chicago is one of the markets that is furthest along in the upgrade process.

Sprint executives, including CEO Dan Hesse, have said the company plans to increase its network marketing as it nears the end of its Network Vision program. It appears that process is starting, and will likely ramp up next year.

Sprint has said its Spark service, which combines 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz LTE transmissions, will come to the top 100 U.S. markets during the next three years, with speeds capable of reaching 50-60 Mbps and perhaps faster thanks to carrier aggregation. However, that relies on Sprint deploying 60 MHz of spectrum for LTE as well as new radio heads, which is a process that will begin in earnest next year. Other initial markets with limited availability of Sprint Spark are Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Tampa.

Sprint expects to cover 200 million POPs with LTE on its 1.9 GHz spectrum by the end of 2013, and will expand that to 250 million POPs by mid-2014. The company has also started deploying LTE in its 800 MHz spectrum, which was freed up from the closure of its Nextel iDEN network. That deployment will continue into 2014.

As for its 2.5 GHz spectrum, Sprint plans to have 5,000 2.5 GHz TD-LTE sites on air by year end, and expects to cover 100 million POPs with 2.5 GHz LTE by the end of 2014. Sprint controls 120 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in 90 of the top 100 U.S. markets.

Meanwhile, Sprint announced it had priced a $2.5 billion bond offering due in 2024. The offering is expected to be completed on Thursday. Sprint said in a statement it will use the proceeds for "general corporate purposes, which may include, among other things, retirement or service requirements of outstanding debt and network expansion and modernization."

For more:
- see this Sprint network release
- see this Sprint financing release

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